Something unmistakably vintage pervades Red Ghost, the newest album from Americana outlet Miles Maxwell. Formed by frontman Miles Baltrusaitis alongside brothers Matt and Dan Stankiewicz, this stretching of the roots rock muscles for these three is a natural extension of their previous work in soul outfit My Blue Valentine. Beyond an inherent soulfulness, however, there is an almost mathematical precision to the way that the band handles its instrumentation, between Matt Stankiewicz’s percussion and Dan’s fingers when they’re laid to the keys. This is said to come from their classical upbringing, having been brought into this artful world by a music teaching father.
Backed by bass from Steve Kingwell, the Miles Maxwell ensemble brings a uniqueness to their approach in a world where that word is used to describe any last Allman Brothers or Eagles knockoff. Yet, although Miles Maxwell incorporates familiar themes into their work through the standard Americana blend of all manner of roots genres, the keen mixture of irreverence and adept precision that they bring to their music feels truly individualistic—even amidst the thousands of indie folk artists out there attempting to make it with their art right at this very moment. ‘Individualized’ doesn’t inherently mean ‘good’, of course, but in this case it does.
It’s a relief that Miles Maxwells’ well-meaning intentions to innovate manage to swing a hit, because Red Ghost plays out like a grand slam to celebrate. The chop of opening track ‘Snapdragon’s’ delivery feels almost like a Ben Folds joint than a typical Americana number, complete with an emphasis on a simultaneously lax and spitfire vocal performance from Baltrusaitis while the Stankiewiczes do their thing. It’s an off-beat and enheartening jam that, in many ways, feels like the key that unlocks the door towards the rest of the indelible innovation present on Red Ghost.
Most importantly, though, the band’s heartful passion can be viewed sheerly through all of the cool musical quirks that they’re delivering. Baltrusaitis’ brings a jaunty soulfulness to proceedings that feels delectably off-kilter, most certainly, but most importantly is that his subtle, unassuming twang feels honest and open. His performance rises alongside the impressive musicianship on display from his bandmates, with a staple earnestness lying at the center of all that Miles Maxwell stands for.
This may even be felt most on the titular closer, with the company summoning a soft-spoken gospel swing to their presentation right before their final bow. Along the way, you can feel the broken sentiment that Baltrusaitis hopes to convey—a feeling that should speak to anyone else on this dear earth with a heart. Relatable, innovative, and most certainly heartfelt, Red Ghost should be an album you don’t let disappear from your grasp.