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JOSEPH TOPPING - Ghosts In The Shadows

Ghosts In The Shadows
Fellside Recordings FECD231

A fine mix of contemporary, trad and self-penned acoustic numbers, with the latter in the majority, but all delivered with JT’s relaxed vocal style and blinding finger style guitar and blues accompaniment. Much of this album was born out of a charity walk down the US from Chicago to New Orleans (following Hurricane Katrina) and the adventures that the said journey led to. Miranda Sykes takes leave of her Show Of Hands duties, but not her senses, to deliver exquisite bass and vocal harmonies. Joe Wright (fiddle/mandolin) and Richard Adams (percussion) complete the assembly – but this is most definitely JT in essence and in a nutshell. If I was cornered I’d choose Little Red Rooster and Walking To New Orleans as cobtemp.  faves, but the real blast of the entire album is his own William McKenzie And The Devil, which is a true story that could only have originated with one of the great Victorian eccentrics, and subtly explained in song with gusto. His triumphs for me are when his intimate deliveries with minimum accompaniment lead the listener on a delicate journey.

The Lakes Of Ponchartrain, a far nicer song than place, is visited by someone who’s actually been there for a change, like myself, so understands the reality of the swampy mess, sung about in romantic tones by some performers, who shall remain nameless (you know who you are).

A sparkling debut from this stalwart of Elbow Jane and The Rainbow Chasers. An unclaimed musical treasure – discover it yourself, soon.

Grem Devlin

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This album was reviewed in Issue 85 of The Living Tradition magazine.