The North Carolina band Roam Like Ghosts is an acoustic duo consisting of Mathew Daugherty on vocals and Bucky Fairfax on guitars. The group blends styles across various genres from rock to folk for an alternative sound.The band describes their debut album Yesterday and the Day Before as an “updated throwback to ’90s grunge/alternative acoustic rock in the spirit of Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Dinosaur Jr. and Big Wreck with a little bit of folk and a little bluegrass and swampy flair thrown in.” The stories within their songs explore relationships, aging, suicide, loss and other facts of life both good and bad. Sounds like good stuff – let’s dig in.
“When the Wind Blew” is a wonderful short little ditty about the passing of time and letting nature run its course when we die. Autoharp, toe tapping and a gentle acoustic rhythm were all that was needed here. “Smile” starts off with a faster rhythm and great vocal harmonies. The lyrics suggest about having a good time with a favorite friend, but also about starting over – “Here I am, again at your door / Hoping that I can make you see / We know it’s not the same / But I know I was to blame / Come on try it all again with me.” “Go On” slows the tempo down and this one seems to be about letting a friend do what they need to do for the sake of keeping their sanity.
The vocal harmonies and arrangement of guitars on “Take it on the Chin” are absolutely gorgeous. The title says it all – taking one for the team because you messed things up, somehow, once again. “Ballad of a Friend” begins with piano made possible from an additional player, Justin Khoury and bass player, Jeremy Cartner. The lyrics here suggests a friend living fast, trying to carve a path for themselves in their hometown and then, dying young. It’s introspective no doubt and sadly, all too familiar for me as well. “One Thing” lightens the mood up a bit with its lighter flair of acoustic sounds. I really liked the lines – “So raise your sails up high into the wind that’s blowing / Don’t waste your time with fools that’ll stop you from growing” – but at the same time, don’t remain clueless to the “one thing” that’s happening within you that gives you power, hope and inspiration – a great song and message.
“The Quiet” gets pretty serious lyrically and it’s written in both first and second person. I won’t decipher them too much, but I will say the message is spot on for those of us who knows what’s being sung. “If Walls Could Talk” takes a sad, painful look into the past. It’s about “A broken home and shattered dreams.” Musically, I thought this tune was by far the most tender, most gorgeous sounding on the album. Halfway into the song, additional harmonies come in from Kara Davis and Ally Khoury – full and rich.
“Heaven’s Light” has that Alice in Chains sound a la Jar of Flies, (which arguably was their best) and hints of Stone Temple Pilots or Pearl Jam. The lyrics here suggest loss and redemption. The last number “See You Again” is a goodbye ode to a friendship that is ending for a time. Couldn’t quite tell if the one who is singing to the “girl” in the song was either living or dead, but that didn’t really matter anyway with this well fitted song that ends the album on a solid note.
Musically, Roam Like Ghosts is acoustically driven with rich textures and warm rhythms. Vocally, Daugherty and Fairfax’s singing were absolutely fantastic; it’s not hard to realize the reasons why this duo has licensing deals with eight of the ten songs off their debut. They have a few live shows coming up in North Carolina and during the late summer in Virginia and even one in D.C. – road trip anyone?
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