The third album from Vermont-based songstress Ries, Ghost of a Gardener is an impressive effort already attracting international accolades. Setting her apart from many of her peers are the adventurous and compelling instrumental arrangements of her sweetly poetic material. Woodwinds, strings, synths, backing vocals and even a glockenspiel add warm and evocative soundscapes to a style that can perhaps be labeled chamber-folk. The instrumentation just occasionally threatens to but thankfully never obscures the clarity of her pure voice, which has been compared to that of a young Maria Muldaur.
Ries' skill as a lyricist is encapsulated on her description of a farmer's daughter in "Holiest Day": "clothes muddy, red-cheeked and reticent." The intensity and the guitars pick up on "You Can Go" and "I See It Coming," a nice change from the generally sedate earlier songs and the haunting closer, "Standing Still." Co-produced by Ries and David Vandervelde, the disc was recorded in the Chicago studio of late Wilco member Jay Bennett and features some of that city's best players.
Raised on Mennonite hymns and Carpenters tunes, the classically trained Ries has clearly come a long way. After earlier collaborations with the likes of Bon Iver and Anais Mitchell, it is clearly now time to reap the rewards of her musical gardening. (Star House)