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HOLY GHOST TENT REVIVAL — Sweat Like the Old Days

by Ryan Snyder

Before Holy Ghost Tent Revival ever took to recording their latest LP, Sweat Like the Old Days, vocalist Stephen Murray insinuated in an interview last year that the band was looking to distinguish itself from bluegrass-circuit typecasting. HGTR was to be a vintage rock-and-roll group at its core, still informed by the same intoxicating sense of swing and still true to the most basic tenets of pop. By that point bassist Patrick Leslie had moved on from the group and, if history is any indication, personnel change is often the right time for sea change. Thus, Sweat Like the Old Days

sounds exactly like the album that they set out to make: 11 songs that betray their gooey pop cores by emphasizing the same liberated relationship between all of HGTR’s moving parts, yet all moving forward together in a unified direction. SLTOD is by far their most electric guitar-forward release, but generous doses of muted trumpet allow it to retain the carnivalesque ambiance for which they’ve always been known. The warm open of leadoff hitter “The Mayan King” initiates a sense of easygoing ambivalence that persists, while Murray’s lyrics hint that the song’s subject might be close to the band and distant at the same time. Its first real rocker is “Telephone Wire,” which finds its home between Little Feat-style Southern boogie and Dr. Dog’s wide-eyed psychedelia. They trace their own roots back through tender ballads like “Come Tomorrow,” but the album’s true heart lies in its unabashed fealty to power-pop gods like Elvis Costello, who they conjure up on “John Addams Family.” It’s not only the album’s best song, it’s a song so balanced in its strut and reticence that it could’ve found a home on This Year’s Model. It’s that good, and in its own station, so is Sweat Like the Old Days.

86/100

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