The Dustbowl Revival: Holy Ghost Station EP

Philip Majorins

Holy Ghost Station is exceptional considering the wide range of musical territory that is covered.

The Dustbown Revival

Holy Ghost Station EP

Label: The Dustbowl Revival
US Release Date: 2011-08-02
UK Release Date: 2011-08-02
Online Release Date: 2011-07-30

The Americana folk revival is in full bloom. Hipsters far and wide are filling classic American musical forms with new meaning. This new generation is taking a different route in the tired quest to find themselves. A route that is encumbered by tradition. A quest for purity of form, even when unlikely musical mash-ups ensue.

This taste for nostalgia has been developing across the indie landscape. From Beirut to Fleet Foxes, many are wearing the clothes of classic American and European folk forms, and are constructing musical identity by conjuring and listening to the past. Not as isolated individuals on a search for original expression, but as a community of players on the same quest. The Dustbowl Revival is a perfect example of this zeitgeist. Frontman Zach Lupetin is staking his claim and taking things even further. A previous generation may have felt a disaffected pride at being “out on their own”, but groups like the Dustbowl Revival are starting to question the foundations of both individualized autonomy and utopian denials of the human condition. It’s a community of musicians that connects and invites the audience to participate. Lupetin’s lyrical and musical concoctions on the Holy Ghost Station EP create a hopeful caricature of life, using tried and true Americana forms that were often birthed out of misery. That fact alone makes this music a post-modern treasure, and the perfect medicine for the musical palette that usually prefers despair over celebration.

It is clear from the outset of Holy Ghost Station that the members of the Dustbowl Revival are quality musicians with a solid handle on early American musical vernacular. This EP is soaked in jazz, bluegrass, gospel, swing, and klezmer. The arrangements are tastefully balanced and the humour embedded in the lyrics bite without becoming too ironic. The balance of Holy Ghost Station is exceptional considering the wide range of musical territory that is covered.

When reviewing an album like this, it is appropriate to ask how well a band like the Dustbowl Revival fills up the forms that they are expressing. Do they respect the roots and push the tradition further, with a distinct communal voice? In the case of Holy Ghost Station, the answer is yes. The EP starts off to the bluegrass bounce of “That Old Dustbowl”. It’s a song that could have been the soundtrack to a happy Steinbeck novel: “You can lose your mind / Lose control / But you ain’t goin’ back to that old dustbowl”. The title track “Holy Ghost Station” is a shuffle blues jam that showcases a capella harmony at the beginning and end of the track, then plenty of tasty licks from the dobro, harmonica, and bass. “Lowdown Blues” recalls New Orleans-style dixieland, and “What You’re Doing to Me” is a Bessie Smith-influenced stride with Caitlin Doyle providing the slightly sexy vocals. “Le Bataillon” features, among other things, the tuba and mandolin while spouting phrases like “Let’s take a ride in my Ford Taurus / We can pretend it’s a brontosaurus”. It is by far one of the most entertaining and original songs penned by Lupetin on Holy Ghost Station. The banjo makes another appearance in the country/bluegrass “Solid Gone”, before the last two tracks “Western Passage” and “No Anchor Rag” bring the listener home. “Western Passage” revels in the kind of vibe that makes Calexico proud to be from Arizona. This instrumental proves to be a favourite, due in part to the creative interplay between the guitar, clarinet, horns, and banjo. A display of musicianship and style; Garrison Keillor could only wish he had a house band this good.

This is great music that may come across as novelty for some, but it is fresh and defies sounding sentimental. Because the players are young it may lack some authenticity, but they are great actors reviving parts of the American musical past that need to be kept alive. Roots folk music has always made a resurgence within American popular music whenever seismic cultural shifts have taken, or are about to take place. Let’s hope that the music of the Dustbowl Revival is a sign of a hopeful shift. Leave it to a bunch of (West Coast) hipster 20-somethings to inject a bit of joy while forging the future by way of the past.




Love in the Time of Coronavirus

I Went on a Jewel Bender in Quarantine. This Is My Report.

It's 2020 and everything sucks right now, so let's all fucking chill and listen to Jewel.


Jess Williamson Reimagines the Occult As Source Power on 'Sorceress'

Folk singer-songwriter, Jess Williamson wants listeners to know magic is not found in tarot cards or mass-produced smudge sticks. Rather, transformative power is deeply personal, thereby locating Sorceress as an indelible conveyor of strength and wisdom.

By the Book

Flight and Return: Kendra Atleework's Memoir, 'Miracle Country'

Although inconsistent as a memoir, Miracle Country is a breathtaking environmental history. Atleework is a shrewd observer and her writing is a gratifying contribution to the desert-literature genre.


Mark Olson and Ingunn Ringvold Celebrate New Album With Performance Video (premiere)

Mark Olson (The Jayhawks) and Ingunn Ringvold share a 20-minute performance video that highlights their new album, Magdalen Accepts the Invitation. "This was an opportunity to perform the new songs and pretend in a way that we were still going on tour because we had been so looking forward to that."


David Grubbs and Taku Unami Collaborate on the Downright Riveting 'Comet Meta'

Comet Meta is a brilliant record full of compositions and moments worthy of their own accord, but what's really enticing is that it's not only by David Grubbs but of him. It's perhaps the most emotive, dream-like, and accomplished piece of Grubbsian experimental post-rock.


On Their 2003 Self-Titled Album, Buzzcocks Donned a Harder Sound and Wore it With Style and Taste

Buzzcocks, the band's fourth album since their return to touring in 1989, changed their sound but retained what made them great in the first place

Reading Pandemics

Chaucer's Plague Tales

In 18 months, the "Great Pestilence" of 1348-49 killed half of England's population, and by 1351 half the population of the world. Chaucer's plague tales reveal the conservative edges of an astonishingly innovative medieval poet.


Country's Jaime Wyatt Gets in Touch With Herself on 'Neon Cross'

Neon Cross is country artist Jaime Wyatt's way of getting in touch with all the emotions she's been going through. But more specifically, it's about accepting both the past and the present and moving on with pride.


Counterbalance 17: Public Enemy - 'It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back'

Hip-hop makes its debut on the Big List with Public Enemy’s meaty, beaty manifesto, and all the jealous punks can’t stop the dunk. Counterbalance’s Klinger and Mendelsohn give it a listen.


Sondre Lerche and the Art of Radical Sincerity

"It feels strange to say it", says Norwegian pop artist Sondre Lerche about his ninth studio album, "but this is the perfect time for Patience. I wanted this to be something meaningful in the middle of all that's going on."


How the Template for Modern Combat Journalism Developed

The superbly researched Journalism and the Russo-Japanese War tells readers how Japan pioneered modern techniques of propaganda and censorship in the Russo-Japanese War.


From Horrifying Comedy to Darkly Funny Horror: Bob Clark Films

What if I told you that the director of one of the most heartwarming and beloved Christmas movies of all time is the same director as probably the most terrifying and disturbing yuletide horror films of all time?

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.