Review: "Prayin' All the Time" by Ghostwriter

Oregon one-man band Steve Schecter, who for the past ten years has gone by the moniker Ghostwriter, has just released an eight-song LP titled "Prayin' All the Time." His first release in over three years, since 2008's "Wreck the City," "Prayin' All the Time" was recorded live to analog tape and independently released on Schecter's own End of the West label, showing that his outsider ethics and DIY practices remain intact. And Ghostwriter is still just Schecter all by himself, a lone folk punk and roots rock troubadour, strummin' and pickin' the strings of his electric hollow-body guitar, stomping his homemade foot-percussion device, and conjuring his urgent, gravel-thoated vocals.

When it comes to the material on "Prayin' All the Time," Schecter evidently journeyed back to the beginning of his project to recapture the exceedingly raw sound of his 2004 album "Road Angels." He didn't stop there, though. "Prayin'" also has some of the punk-fueled sound of "Darkest Hour" and the dirty-as-road grit sound of "Wreck the City." And there are even a few on this record that prove Ghostwriter is still evolving as an artist.

Brothers with the Devil, the opening track on the A Side, is a catchy rock'n'roll piece with a driving rhythm and Schecter's trademark growl. One of my personal favorites is the second song, Religion, a filthy, aggressive composition with stomp percussion and great lyrics. Next up, Smoke & Diesel, is definitely one of Ghostwriter's slower offerings, with clear note patterns from his six string, occasional jangles from the tambourine shoe attached to his foot-percussion rig, and a rather intense vocal delivery. One Now with the Devil marks the start of the B Side, and it is another one for which Schecter slows down a bit, and it is also one with which he continues the obvious recurring theme of religion, namely the devil. Darlin' Cory, the only cover song on the record, is Ghostwriter's fiery folk punk and blues trash take on Charlie Louvin's version of the same song. And lastly, Mess in the Kitchen II is the punk-infused reworking of a song that actually predates Ghostwriter's "Road Angels" album, as it originally appeared on his now out-of-print debut from 2003, "As I Go Alone (songs of love and significance)."

Ghostwriter is one of those rare one-man bands that has emerged somewhat from the obscurity of the scene to be recognized by a considerably wider audience, much like Bob Log III and Scott H. Biram. He has also made some notable accomplishments over the years, like touring relentlessly through the States, playing a number of shows in Europe, hitting key festivals and venues, and sharing stages with artists such as Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, T-Model Ford, Dex Romweber, and Th' Legendary Shack Shakers. Aside from running his own label and self-releasing his own CDs and LPs, Ghostwriter has been featured on compliations such as Rock N Roll Purgatory's "Attack of the One-Man Bands" two-disc release (2007) and Punk Rock Blues Records' "This is Punk Rock Blues" (2005). To date, he has been involved in two split releases - one with The Wailin' Elroys, and the other with Boxcar Satan. And in addition to such other great artists as Possessed by Paul James, Reverend Deadeye, Tom VandenAvond and Scott H. Biram, Ghostwriter appeared a 2008 film by M.A. Littler (Slowboat Films), titled "The Folksinger - A Tale of Men, Music, and American." Not too shabby, really.

Despite all of his accomplishments, despite his loyal fanbase and a good deal of favorable press, Schecter's Ghostwriter project hasn't endured the past decade for any other reason than his pure and abiding love for music, as well as his need to express himself, to exorcize his demons one song at a time. He isn't making money hand over fist doing this. Nor is he being wined and dined by major labels waving contracts in his face. Instead, he owns a sound that is unique to his project and belongs in the world of underground music. He has no place lounging in a big, shiny tour bus with a hired driver at the wheel; rather, he belongs by himself in a battered old vehicle, kicking up dust on the highways of the west, pushing through the snows of the north, cutting into the gray cities of the east, and tearing down lonely stretches in the sweltering nights of the insect-swarmed south. Ane when he's not writing, recording or touring, Schecter is your average blue-collar working class individual, just trying to make it from one day to the next like the rest of us. It is decidedly the sort of life that keeps one "prayin' all the time."

Ghostwriter's "Prayin' All the Time" comes in a durable sleeve with a slightly blurry picture of the artist jammin' in the woods, and inside of that there is a second sleeve on which he included lyrics to all of his original songs, as well as artist notes, references and acknowledgements. And if you order "Prayin' All the Time" directly from the End of the West website, the LP comes with a free CDR of the same songs for your listening pleasure and convenience. .

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