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Reviews / Sandison’s Ghosts do it ‘pretty darn well’

The artwork for Jack Sandison’s band Holy Ghosts’ new EP.

EDINBURGH-based musician Jack Sandison is, of course, no stranger to Shetland audiences, writes Chris Cope. The expat learned his trade in the isles’ sweat-and-booze stained halls as a teen in the punked-up progeny Death By Monkeys and rockers Jezebel.

Since setting sail for university in the mid 2000s, it seems Sandison has eschewed the rambunctiousness, become best pals with the acoustic guitar and matured into something of a rockin’ and rollin’ troubadour.

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Having released their debut album ‘Ride Me Down’ last year, the vocalist/guitarist and his Scottish-capital cronies The Holy Ghosts are back in the spotlight with their new four-track EP ‘The End Of The World And Other Multifarious Destinations’.

Whilst its title may encourage some to scramble for the dictionary, the music – a warm cocktail of laid-back, Americana-speckled tunes – thankfully isn’t quite so hard to digest.

If you’re looking for brain-melting polyrhythms or breakneck beats, then you’ll probably be a bit disappointed – but The Holy Ghosts, who have often been regarded as long lost cousins twice-removed of The Rolling Stones, have their style, and they do it pretty darn well.

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EP opener ‘End of the Line’ sets the tone nicely, with an uplifting brass section working snugly with concise rock n’ roll strokes and multi-layered harmonies.

And it sounds good. Rather good. The four tracks were cut to tape in a schoolhouse-turned-studio in Perthshire, with the group hoping to vibe off their roomy locale, and it seems to have worked.

The pedal steel notes of following tune ‘Ties That Bind’ wash over the aural landscape with a saccharine yet woody flavour, whilst Sandison’s vocals wouldn’t sound out of place on that one country album in your record collection.

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Third track ‘Velvet Moon’ meanwhile perhaps houses the jewel in the crown. Amid its stocky rock chops is a psychedelic-tinged interlude that melts with left-field keyboard exploration and a pulsating, marauding bass line. With the Stones influence pervading The Holy Ghosts, it’s a tad ironic that this wacky Beatles-esque section is a highlight of the EP – and at only 30 seconds long, it’s all a bit of a tease.

The final song meanwhile is ‘Shot at Dawn’, a drum-light chillout written in dedication to Thomas Highgate, the first British soldier executed for desertion in World War One, and its smooth veneer is a fitting conclusion. ‘With the army in retreat, tell me you would not have done the same? While our leaders sip cold drinks, men are out dying in vain’ Sandison sings in support of his slain comrade.

So, ’The End Of The World And Other Multifarious Destinations’ is done. Does it feel like you’ve come to the end of the world? Or another multifarious destination?

I’m not quite sure what the M-word means, so I’ll just say that I wish I’d heard the EP on its vinyl version, kicking it back whisky-in-hand in a dimly lit room instead of a Soundcloud link on the computer. And I don’t even like whisky.

Chris Cope

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