Sunday, 1 December 2013


One of the finest bands to come out of Edinburgh in recent years is one THE HOLY GHOSTS. Their influences shine through Chuck Berry, Johnny Cash, Oasis and good ole fashioned ROCK N ROLL.

Earlier in the year they released a cracking quality E.P which i reviewed:

The Holy Ghosts E.P: Voodoo Shakedown

So after enjoying my first live experience of The Holy Ghosts I jumped at the chance of reviewing their 2nd E.P with their new 4 track package.

First up we get ' When we were King '. Beginning with a count in by lead man Jack Sandison to an intro which reminds me of Del Amitri's ' Kiss this thing goodbye ' Jack's vocal delivery and the bridge section come across like a country pop ' The Levellers' with infectious sing along vocals and melodies all backed up by Jon MacKenzie’s intricate country licks. With it's rousing chorus it guarantees a future festival anthem in the making. A great start.

We move in to more classic rock n roll territory with the hilariously titled second tune ' Don't come a knockin ' on my rock n roll coffin ' A monster mash up of Chuck Berry's ' Johnny be Good ' early Beatles and a hint of The Rolling Stones 'Route 66' thrown in for good measure. Jack takes the listener into an imaginary Grateful Dead bar, featuring classic country and rock n roll stars still partying hard. We get Joplin and Cash bopping on the dance floor while Cochran is doing the mash potato in the kitchen sink. A perfect homage to all the greats with it's tongue firmly in it's cheek. A live favorite, best enjoyed with a spirit or two ( make mine a JD and coke )

Track 3 : We're in good country company with the Johnny Cash ' Folsom prison blues ' sounding 'Let it Die'. With it's Train on the Tracks rhythm and lead, moving in to a more modern chorus with rock riffs, harmonica solo and 3 part harmonies chorus. For me the weakest out of the four, a tune more appreciated live.

Lastly we get the pure country ballad sounding ' Flippin out fifties' Jack doing his best Hank Williams impression singing his heart out while the minor sounding notes of a violin ring out, creating a deep south edge. The band taking the listener to a Honky-tonk bar in down-town Tennessee, the band playing out to a packed bar full of country loving good 'ole ' boys n gal’s all clad in denim, steel tipped boots smooching on the dance floor. Anyone know the theme to Rawhide?

All in all a thoroughly entertaining listen, one that deserves repeat plays. From Americana tinged rock, traditional rock n roll and country, all with a modern indie band attitude. These boys have a lot of influences to play with, many touched on, much more to come, bring on the album.

I was fortunate to catch the lads in action at their headline show at Edinburgh Voodoo Rooms. A perfect venue for a voodoo blues shakedown:

 It's now up to The Holy Ghosts to prove they can Rock 'n Roll. The good ole boys are back in town and this time their headlining .Local respected lead man out of William Douglas & the Wheel and inspiration for the head liners name does his best Freddie Mercury impression ,warming up the crowd and enticing us closer saying “Do your most for The Holy Ghosts” “1-2-3-4 “ main man Jack Sandison launches in to new E.P ( voodoo shakedown ) opener 'When we were kings', no time is wasted before we get 'Devil on your side' Jack struts, he pouts , he's our rock n roller shaker maker. The hilariously titled 'Don't come a knockin on my rock n roll coffin' with it's Johnny B Goode riff and infectious chorus follows. He reels us in like he's caught a runaway horse with the slower country rock feel of 'Staring down the barrel'. He produces a set list which is from the last band shaking his head before “you having a good time, we certainly are”. I'm sure I speak for most by thinking 'we are' He introduces a new song 'No stone unturned' which is in similar style to 'When we were kings' lead guitarist Jon Mackensie does a classic Pete Townsend windmill . Back to E.P for 'Let it die' Jack dedicates it to Johnny Cash and sounds very much like the sadly missed Man in Black.
Jack tells us “The next three songs will be like a rock n roll jam inviting friends to join us on stage” we get a two piece brass section adding warmth and extra dynamics to the set. There's a lot of Jon's previous band The Complete Stone Roses coming through on 'Hounds' with a 'Love spreads' vibe on the solo, then Led Zepp licks on second of new tunes 'Ride on Baby' .
The set moves in to ' Kickstarter ' where Jack gives it all swigging from a vodka bottle while doing mad Mick Jagger moves , then giving a two finger salute to us before leaving the stage . Rock n Roll.
Jon shocks us all by taking control of lead man duties, jack rejoins and everyone joins in for a rendition of The Bands 'Weight'. A Americana pop classic tune to round off a top notch night of quality bands. The next Dirty Blues night, can we get the same line up?

Photo's courtesy of Alan Rennie

I got an interview with Jack, Jon, Andy and for a short while Jonny.

Me: Tell me about how has the Second E.P ( voodoo shakedown ) gone down?
Jon: Sold really well, we underestimated how well it would do, judging it on the last E.P's sales. We only have 10 left to shift, which should go tonight, after the success of our promotion tour. We're really happy how well it's done. Jack: We have had good feedback from all over the world ( in the background the rumbling tones of Black cat Bone ring out , almost drowning us out )

Me: The tour you did in England, did you headline or support some bands? Jack: No, we supported local bands on bills of blues nights.
Me: Any bands approached you to be their support? Jack; Alabama 3 and The Rifles, we also have a few we can't mention just know ( intriguing ) He continues “ We're trying to get our boot heels in the UK and take it from there, we'll be releasing other videos then getting the album out”
Me: Best gig or experience good or bad on the tour? Jonny: London. We had a great night in Manchester. Then on route down we got stuck in between Manchester- Birmingham ( lost dog on the motorway ) for 4 hours, it was a red hot day, we we're sick, got to the Hoxton Square venue, people were sat on the roof in the sun. We thought no one is going to watch us, then we struck a note and the place started to fill, Andy( keys ) was great ( laughing ) It ended a packed venue and a great night.
Jack: We're going to put on a blues event here at The Voodoo Rooms every couple of months; Rhythm and blues, country rock acts, none of that indie band pish.

Me: So another tour on the cards? Jon: We're hoping to release the album late 2013/early '14 then we'll go on a tour taking in Europe.

I ask a few questions relevant to their influences. Me: What's the connection between U2 and Gram Parsons? Jon and Andy: Not sure. Jon: Wait a minute, U2 released The Joshua Tree and Gram died in The Joshua Tree national park. ( correct )

Me: Gibson or Epiphone guitars? Jon: hesitates before going for Gibson.

Me: Hound dog or Heartbreak Hotel ( Elvis )? Jon and Andy: Hound dog. Jack: I'll be controversial; Heartbreak because it has more flavour and shake to it.

Me: Hurt or I walk the line ( johnny cash ) ? Band: I walk the line though we all agree the Hurt video is cool.

Me: You are at the Crossroads, what would you sell your soul to the devil for? Jack: New trainers and a ham sandwich . Andy: To play the pedal steel guitar better. Jon: Nothing, I’m a happy and content soul.

If you could have released a tune under Sun or Mercury? Band: Sun definitely. Jon: Can you still record there? Andy: Yes, I’ve been there, all the original equipment. Jack: If the new album does well you never know next one could be recorded at Sun studios.

Finally I ask about their hero. Me: Johnny b Goode or No particular place to go ( Chuck Berry )? Jon: My favorite tune of all time, since seeing Marty Mcfly play it in Back to the future, I loved that version. Jack: Chuck Berry invented Rock N Roll. Jon: Can I add? It gets my back up when you play a set of covers and the only one that gets people up and dancing, not just jigging but holding hands and dancing is 'Johnny B Goode' 60 years ago it came out- timeless. Andy: Jon introduced me to him, Berry is not only a great guitarist but a storyteller. Jack: Just don't open a restaurant with him. Jon: Can you release a separate blog just about Chuck Berry?

I Can! 

Chuck the duck walker

You can't dismiss that if we didn't have Rock n roll in the 50's then we wouldn't have had Led Zep, have Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon ( okay we can't have everything ).
Growing up believing like myself that every lad wants to be a rock star, to strut his stuff on a stage in front of thousand’s of screaming - adoring fans, no! Just me then. Also dreaming of one day owning a original Gibson 350 or a 355, with it's stylish rock n roll sheen. One lad who did dream of this was a fictional character Marty Mcfly from the movie Back to the future, who introduced me to a great little number by Marvin's cousin: Chuck Berry, a rousing little pop rock tune 'Johnny b goode' After playing this tune to an unsuspecting audience who had never heard of Rock n Roll, McFly said “You might not be ready for this yet, but your kids are gonna love it “
Not only can Berry play the blues like he's sold his soul to the devil but he can sing and write his own tunes. Also expanding his musical talents in creating his own trademark dance: The Duck walk: which was mimicked by many including Mr Mcfly and one young Scottish born rocker Angus Young.
To this day Chuck Berry now in his 80's can still be seen playing the blues. Still gifted with a back catalogue of classic R N B pop tunes which will live on through out generations to come. Still today a huge influence on new artists and bands.

The lads have grown from strength to strength winning the Best Newcomer act at this years SAMA awards in Glasgow. They have some solid support gigs lined up in December with John Power ( Dec 5th)  Alabama 3 ( Dec 6) and with The Complete Stone Roses ( Dec 13) . They now have a plan to record their debut album. You can help by pledging a donation to make it happen and pre- order the album here:


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