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09/09/11

Haunted House: Loren Connors, Andrew Burnes, Suzanne Langille, Neel Murgai
Blue Ghost Blues

The band Haunted House has no real history, except in its name, which, according to producer Kurt Gottschalk’s liner notes, originated in blues man’s Lonnie Johnson’s (1899-1970) song title until it was changed to Blue Ghost Blues, the name of Haunted House’s album.

The electronics stem from the two guitars played by Loren Connors and Andrew Burnes. The Asian daf and kanjira frame drums are played by Neel Murgai. Suzanne Langille is the lone vocalist and lyricist.

The original music is steeped in strumming heaviness counteracted by the dry, non-resonant rhythmic hand figures on the frame drums. Langille’s voice is a combination of that of Patti Smith, Patty Waters and Laurie Anderson. Langille whispers, shouts, laughs or utters firm, dramatic words. She uses her voice as an instrument rather than as a singing device. Any tunes heard are seemingly incidental. In contrast, “Grip My Hand” builds entrance for yearning sung or spoken words over the last half of a four minute piece. Overall, this music is lusty, booming, seldom subtle, and borders on rock and poetry collaborations prevalent in the past days when the longing for expression rooted itself in memorable mind-bending moments.

Surely, just as hip-hop is a modern extension of the blues, so is this guitar and voice extravaganza a version of the blues in another phase of its spectrum. The most adamant blues devotées might disregard Blue Ghost Blues as a bastardization of a precious southern American commodity without which ‘jazz’ and ‘rock ‘n roll’ might not have arisen.

But no matter what its form, the blues is a product of a purposely chosen minor key and is traditionally defined by many musicians as being about feelings. Blue Ghost Blues paints incredibly vivid pictures that have little deniability of feeling. Leaving the music’s grip is pretty impossible.

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