Last month, when Ryan Adams passed through town, I got a little misty-eyed for the days when Adams was a force to be reckoned with. Long before the singer/songwriter was known for his hit-or-miss solo work, his artfully disheveled hair, and actress bedding, Adams was the brash frontman for Whiskeytown, the last great crossover hope for the alt-country movement. Their records were a bold mix of country's twang with a heavy dose of Fleetwood Mac radio pop, all of which flourished in the interplay between violinist/singer Caitlin Cary (who played the role of the good cop), and Adams, who was young and reckless, a live wire clad in pearl snap shirts and always on the verge of either greatness or another onstage train wreck. Either way, you couldn't help but watch.
And we did watch, but the result wasn't what we had planned. Whiskeytown fell apart, and Adams immediately released Heartbreaker, the raw solo album we all hoped he'd make. It was flawless, but it was also his finest work, as the next seven years have been one disappointment after another. So, like most onetime fans, I'm moving on. But just as I bid farewell to the drinking dirges and sullen love songs of Adams, I came across Brooklyn-via-Seattle band Ghosts I've Met.
Much like Whiskeytown in their prime, Ghosts I've Met balance out a sincere delivery of late-night head-on-the-bar boozing songs and slow-burning love ballads for the brokenhearted. What's even more impressive is that this wonderful sound comes from a brand-new band without a record on the shelves.
"It's our first tour as a band, so we're starting out with just our five-song tour EP, from there we're going to work up to a full-length," says frontman Sam Watts, calling from a tour van slicing through the wasteland of mid-Texas.
For a band with no backing and only a few songs under their belt, Ghosts I've Met have been enjoying their initial tour, thanks in most part to the rich pedigree of musicians in the band. Guitarist Ben Blankenship spent time in Modest Mouse, cellist Brent Arnold used to front a band (Brent Arnold & the Spheres) that was released on fabled indie Up Records, and violinist Margaret White tours alongside two of rock's most intriguing personalities, Cat Power and Sparklehorse.
With all this talent on one stage, Watts & Co. have their sights aimed high, and are ready to leave the bar for better things. "We've been doing a lot less country," he says. "I think I've been pretty happy trying to steer the ship away from the sad, sad, lonely three-chord blues." Just as long as that steering keeps the band far away from Ryan Adams, they'll be fine.
Ghosts I've Met perform at the Towne Lounge on Monday, August 20.