Caleb Shelton is a solo artist who began playing Johnny Cash covers at local venues in East Texas in 2006. Cut to 2008, where Shelton began to write his own original material and hone his craft as a musician. Currently based in North Dakota, where Shelton writes and records at home, it is nonetheless notable how much Johnny Cash has influenced his sound from his days covering the “Man in Black.” The enigmatic and folksy twang is evident right from the get-go upon the first listen of Shelton’s latest album Chasing Ghosts. In a similar vein, Shelton goes out of his way to write songs filled with the mysticism of American folklore and early rock n’ roll traditions. The title track “Chasing Ghosts” follows the topic of “confronting one’s own personal demons,” and much of the record follows in this vernacular. Shelton’s haunting bluesy timbre chases these “ghosts,” unafraid to get down and dirty with the nit and gritty. The guitar, bass, harmonica and piano were all played by Shelton who also includes the implementation of DAW drum programming. The artist delves into classic rock, Chicago blues, jazz and country territory is a wild ride through America’s folk traditions.
Chasing Ghosts gets started with “On Death Mountain,” where twangy guitars give a very raucous bluesy vibe. Shelton’s vocal timbre has the same gritty blues feel. The marching beat and the guitar work makes for a happening sound. The harmonica adds a distinctive touch to the song. This proved to be some foot-stomping blues. Without missing a beat, the next track “Outlaw” comes in. Some rumbling bass and more foot-stomping blues settles in. Shelton’s uncompromising vocals sets the tone for this darkly rendered track. This track reminded me at moments of Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys. Some piano settles in on “Where Do You Go,” giving off a very melancholy vibe. This song felt more in the ballad vein. There is no doubt the longing and regret felt in this track. Filled with heightened emotions, Shelton really seems to deliver here with his soaring vocal harmonies. Sparse guitar riffs highlight the title track “Chasing Ghosts.” The simple instrumentation accompanies Shelton’s haunting vocals. Slowly, some programmed beats enter. Though simply rendered, there is undeniably an emotional resonance to this song.
Beats and the soft twang of guitars sound out on “Haunted Houses.” The bluesy pulse slowly grows with a howling country vibe. Some more blues-driven guitars loosely fill the start of “The Ritual.” Once Shelton’s vocals enter, the bluesy pulse is unmistakeable. This track felt like it harkened back to some old school rock and blues. The delivery and energy were just right. On “Sick And Tired no. 34,” the energy on the album picks up with this jaunty number. The beats are amped and exciting. On “The Last Time,” beats and a sauntering groove on the guitar makes for a very ‘50s and ‘60s era style of music. This was a great slow burning bluesy track great for fans of retro music. Reverberating guitars roll out for some heavy riffing vibes on “Lost In The Aether.” Slowly Shelton's vocals sound out. Equally drenched in reverb, the distortion is played out to full effect here. Shelton rolls out with this simmering finish for what is an introspective closer.
Though this was a home recording, none of this felt like a bedroom production. From the instrumentation to the execution of the vocals, everything had the polished sheen of professionalism. I thought Shelton’s impassioned delivery had a lot to do with this. His gritty vocals really vied for your attention and once they hit you, you can’t get his distinctive timbre out of your head. A solo undertaking, I thought Shelton did a good job handling each section of this album. Everything came together really well and I think he was really able to revive a piece of vintage rock and American folk history in this recording. This was a solid release and I look forward to seeing more music in this style.
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