ALISTER ATKIN AND THE GHOST LINE CARNIVAL – To Evangeline (own label)

To EvangelineYou may know Alister Atkin as a maker of fine guitars and you may have heard his debut album, In Time, recorded with Brendan Power and Tim Edey. If not, don’t feel bad. Neither had I until recently and I’m supposed to know about these things.

Alister and his band are based in Canterbury but in his heart he’s Canadian. His wife comes originally from Nova Scotia, a place where the music of the old world meets that of the new and To Evangeline is just that fusion. I love the music of The Band and, clearly, so does Alister. In fact there are one or two borrowings from Robbie Robertson and the removal of one such would improve ‘Shipping News’ immensely. Sorry to be harsh, Alister, but it has to be said. Once over that, this is an extremely good album – witty, literate songs matched with good tunes and a band which includes Geoffrey Richardson and Annie Whitehead, two former members of The Penguin Café Orchestra – this is close to nirvana: The Band and PCO.

The song that should/might be a single is ‘San Diego’, the story of a musician who is offered the big time and turns his back on it – the line about driving over his guitar makes me wince, though. There are two different cuts of the song on the album – a blatant clue. In the meantime the opener, ‘Jess’s Song’, is available as a single. It’s a song redolent of the fog of the Bay Of Fundy and will enhance your iPod even if you don’t buy the whole album – but that would be a mistake.

Dai Jeffries

ALISTER ATKIN AND THE GHOST LINE CARNIVAL

To EvangelineTO EVANGELINE

New Album released 3rd March 2014

To Evangeline is the stunning new album by Alister Atkin and his band The Ghost Line Carnival, who are based in and around the historic city of Canterbury in Kent. This second offering from Atkin is sure to take his reputation as a singer-songwriter towards the heights he already occupies as one of the finest guitar makers of his generation with a client list that includes artists such as Richard Hawley, Elbow, Eddi Reader and Graham Coxon.

The influential roots music site Spiral Earth have previously nominated Atkin’s 2012 debut release In Time in the ‘Best Debut Album’ category in their annual awards ceremony and it also received an excellent response from many others in the industry, including magazines such as Classic Rock, Guitarist and Acoustic and the radio presenter Mike Harding, who praised Atkin’s songcraft and added that his song Tom should be considered a modern day classic.

In TIme was recorded with BBC Folk Award winners Brendan Power and Tim Edey, plus other notable musical guests. However, in order to promote it live Atkin decided to put his own band together, stating:

“It was clear to me that I needed a group of talented musicians to help me deliver an accurate live performance. Over time the group evolved and what we built was a band that had a great energy both on and off stage. Their creativity and spirit was in such abundance that my next album simply had to be written with them as a collective effort.”

To Evangeline takes the listener on a journey both musically and geographically, with an overwhelming influence coming from the Canadian north east province of Nova Scotia in a classic case of art mimicking life, given that Atkin’s wife originates from the area and he has made numerous trips there. Of the beautiful ballads that he has subsequently been inspired to write, he marvels that: “A true testimony to the band is how I have returned from Nova Scotia many times with nothing more than tales of my travels and meeting different people and yet they have created an album with me which sounds as if they were beside me on every step of the journey.”

The new album was recorded in just three days in a wonderful locked down almost ‘Transatlantic Session’ style environment where distractions are minimal and the creative juices flow. The Ghost Line Carnival consists of Russ Grooms (double bass), Lee Cornwall (cajon), Aidan Shepherd (accordion, piano) as well as two members of the original Penguin Cafe Orchestra in Geoffrey Richardson (viola, mandolin, spoons) and Annie Whitehead (trombone).

Of the difference in the recording process, Atkin comments: “’In Time’ was everything I wished it could be with the sort of large scale production that would traditionally come with an artist’s later albums, but ‘To Evangeline’ was always going to be different, that straight up from the floor rawness that only really ever manifests itself in the live environment. We wanted that and we achieved it.” Recorded with Matt Barwick at Big Squeak Studios in a village just outside Canterbury, the new album has a warm acoustic feel to it with beautifully captured brass, strings and percussion alongside delicate vocal harmonies from the entire band.

The group take their name ‘The Ghost Line Carnival’ from a reference once made to the twilight procession of artists travelling the roads from one performance to the next, often exchanging stories or simply offering a knowingly appreciative nod to each other as they pass and disappear into the night.

To Evangeline will be released in early March 2014 but Alister Atkin And The Ghost Line Carnival will be previewing it live in the months prior to that. An edited version of the album opener Jess’s Song is also available now as an introductory single and scene setter for the full album.

Atkin Guitars: http://www.atkinguitars.com