Alright, this had me within about 15 seconds. This was my first time listening to the Midnight Ghost Train and I was already chanting “don’t ruin it when you start singing” in my head by that point(and honestly, that’s something that actually happens to me a lot – killer tune aaaand the vocals end up being weak/boring/ poorly suited. brutal).
But the opening riff. THE RIFF. So fucking good. So groovy. So catchy. Grooves like that change the world, I’m sure of it. Okay, okay, maybe just my world…. But still. And it has been a *long* time since a band got me that quickly. And, AND, they did *not* fucking ruin it when the vocals kicked in! They surprised the hell outta me, but in the best possible way. Steve Moss sings heavy, way heavier than most fuzzy stoner rocky stuff where we tend to favor the clean (ish) vocals. This is the kind of thing you hear in Dopethrone in particular, but in same ballpark as High on Fire, maybe some Alabama Thunder Pussy, newer Orange Goblin. Its rough and mean and gritty, it sounds like sweat and bourbon and cigarettes, and for the life of me, I’ve never figured out why more bands are doing this kind of thing. Cause I love it and I cannot get enough of it.
The midnight ghost train are basically as heavy as stoner rock gets before it becomes something else. This is the absolute dirtiest, roughest end of stoner rock and heavy blues. But the hallmarks of all the greats are there – the groove, the riff, the tone. And the energy in this album is unbelievable - peaks and valleys, sure, but this thing takes off and you are just with them til the end; you very nearly literally *ride* this album. Cold was the ground has this rolling groove and drive that does not stop. I can only imagine how much these guys sweat when they play, but from the sound of things they probably sweat twice as hard recording this beast.
The only reprieve at all is this totally unexpected weird Tom-Waits-rambling-after-closing-time spoken-word piece, 'The Little Sparrow' towards the end of the album. Now, in the interested of full-disclosure, I absolutely *cannot* do Tom waits (I worked in a record store for almost a decade and my one backroom rule was ‘no Tom Waits,’ after a coworkers made me sit through Nighthawks once). This track is that kind of strange but bizarrely engaging and really kind of hits home, talking about music and (in the case of the Midnight Ghost Train one presumes constant) touring consuming your life and soul and taking everything you’ve got. It’s pretty affecting, because we all know that tale. In our world you do it because you love it and need it. It’s not for money or fame or glory, and it’s not an easy life. And the album as a whole is the real testimonial – the passion and commitment of the Midnight Ghost Train is as clear in every song as it is in 'the Little Sparrow.'