It’s one thing to receive a CD for review; it’s another to be knocked out by what you hear but then be even more thrilled upon reading the credits, seeing who produced it and played on it. This wonderful, fan-funded new release from Texan Aly Tadros, Hungry Ghost, is a baker’s dozen of solid, heartfelt and dynamic songs with a crispness and perfect balance of sound, being primarily acoustic based. The production allows Ms. Tadros’ warm and sultry voice to cut across with power and clarity; I suspect it’s because it was handled by Ms. Tadros and Mr. Kevin Salem. If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Salem, he’s put out several solid albums, is one fucking incredible guitarist – having played with the likes of Freedy Johnston and on one of my favorite albums of all time, Dumptruck’s immortal For The Country. He also produced me, in a band I was in briefly and I think the world of him and his production skills. He’s a master of coaxing maximum performances out of the player, which I suspect he was able to do with Ms. Tadros, who is already as good as you can get.
The album’s opening track, “Rivers” tells you everything right away – Ms. Tadros’s voice is a finely tuned instrument that works as it weaves its way through the acoustic guitars, deep drums (although restrained, which makes it all the more powerful) and the warmly understated bass. To a degree, it almost reminded me, structurally, of Pentangle, with its acoustic folk-jazz stylings; the delicate “Silence Of The City” is like a warm bath of hypnotic melody, carried by the softer, breathy nature of Ms. Tadros’ vocal performance and “Partner In Crime” is an exercise in gentility with the chime notes and quietly tempered performance – at the same time, it’s easily one of the most powerful pieces on the album and a standout moment. The sweeping, haunting country feel of “Lift Me Up” is another of the CD’s finest tracks; the world-weariness and yearning in Ms. Tadros’ voice cannot be understated – this is raw, gut emotion at its best. “The Good Wine”, with its joyful sounding guitar touch closes this collection in a satisfying, fulfilling manner. Thirteen songs; all fully realized, both compositionally and production-wise, is no easy feat and yet, here it is.
In a year of simply interesting, thought provoking or just plain good-enough-to-stay-with-you album, Aly Tadros’ Hungry Ghost has all of those attributes. And it stays with me all the time now, which is very comforting.
Hungry Ghost is available now.