Album Review

The Ghost Who Walks

The Ghost Who Walks

by Karen Elson


XL Recordings
5 / 10
28/06/2010

Reviewed by Karyn Cushen


Karen Elson is quite an accomplished fiery redhead, she is a supermodel; sometimes actress; manager of vintage boutique; wife of Jack White; a mother; and, as of last month, a singer-song writer with a debut album, The Ghost who Walks.

Elson is an experienced vocalist, having cut her teeth in a New York-based cabaret troupe, The Citizens Band, and collaborated with the likes of Robert Plant and Cat Power. However, it was White who finally coaxed a reluctant Elson into the recoding studio, appointing himself as producer in the process. On the album Elson is supported by a cohort of dauntingly skillful musicians, including Jack Lawrence (The Dead Weather), Carl Broemel (My Morning Jacket), Jackson Smith (Patti Smith) and, of course, White.

The Ghost who Walks is a twelve-track release, which predominantly comprise a number of murder ballads. The title, and first, track on the album, is suitably morbid, with striking percussion, a haunting organ and a dainty synthesizer riff. However, while Elson’s vocals are technically brilliant, reminiscent of Neko Case at times, they appear to lack the depth and grit required to pull-off a convincing murder ballad. This rings true for a number of the tracks, like the sassy ‘The Truth is in the Dirt’ and ‘Stolen Roses’.

This lack of genuineness is equally relevant to her song writing, as while she is able to weave a masterful narrative, her subject matter alternates between highly predictable, so lost love or vengeance, or too far removed from reality, for example the final track, ‘Mouths to Feed’, was inspired by the Great Depression and a farmer’s struggle to work her barren land. Yawn.

Elson is clearly a talented singer, but White’s influence is audibly obvious throughout the album, in regard to its arrangement and tone. This renders The Ghost who Walks as yet another musical project for White, rather than the debut offering of a singer-songwriter.






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