Haunted Hearts is a loosey-goosey five piece honky-tonk howling, whiskey groovin’, award winning alt-country band formed and based in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
The band is: Dennis Ellsworth (songwriter, vocals, guitar), Mike MacDougall (drums and percussion), Johnny Ross (piano and organ), and Mark Geddes (bass and vocals), and Thomas Webb (pedal steel, guitar, banjo).
Haunted Hearts have recorded, self released, and sold over 2000 copies of their two full length albums, Thank You, Goodnight (July 25, 2009) and Howdy (September 25, 2010).
The albums have found support in many different channels of radio, from multiple charting positions on Canadian Campus Radio to CBC Radio 2’s Drive, Deep Roots, and Canada Live. Haunted Hearts have also found support stateside on US Americana Radio and overseas in Spain, Netherlands, Italy, and the UK.
The band is an East Coast Music Award Rising Star nominee and showcasing artist, and in January 2011, Haunted Hearts were big winners at the Music PEI Awards. The group won Album of the Year, Group of the Year, Country Recording of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year.
Under the guidance of Jeff Liberty at JL Artists, Haunted Hearts are gearing up for a very hectic year.
Dennis Ellsworth - Lead Vocals & Guitar
Johnny Ross - Piano & Organ
Mike MacDougall - Drums & Percussion
Thomas Webb - Banjo, Guitar, Pedal Steel
Mark Geddes - Bass & back up vocals
Haunted Hearts - Thank You, Goodnight (July 25, 2009)
Haunted Hearts - Howdy (September 25, 2010)
Review of Thank You, Goodnight
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We are finally getting back in the Canadian Mixtape game, and up next is the island known as Prince ...We are finally getting back in the Canadian Mixtape game, and up next is the island known as Prince Edward (so send in any recommendations please). We've been scouring the potato fields and scanning the beaches with our metal detectors looking for buried trinkets. Already, we’ve found a nice roots outfit that has about as many myspace friends as Ryan Adams has records, but is heavy on potential.
With a name like Haunted Hearts, you can’t help but expect certain sounds and subject matter from the young PEI band. Of course you get hit with some bleak ballads about lost love, heavy in echoing guitar notes and organ bouncing that bounces around the emptiness and loneliness of the tracks off the walls of the open spaces, but Thank You, Goodnight shows the boys are good friends that like to drink beer, crank up the guitars and have a good time too.
The record opens up with Thank You Good Night, a spirited duet with piano and organ, female harmonies and dreams about a better life. The riff is chunky and gets you moving, but the piano that dances around the melody grabs a hold of you and won’t let go, and that energy strays into the bar room, piano honky tonk, Haunted Hearts. Obviously, I wasn’t in the studio when the quintet recorded the song, but I’d be shocked if it wasn’t filled with smiles and laughs when they tackled this track.
It’s hard to knock the band for any missteps – and to be fair there are a couple (Something For You really slows the record to a crawl after 10 songs and some of the tracks start slowly until well placed harmonies or piano bring you back in (Disappear When you Need To) – because they seem like real people and the type of guys we’ve know for decades. The songs they write come from the heart, not the Hansel-inspired mentality (“roots is so hot right now”) plaguing bands these days. Bottom line, when they get it right – like they do on the powerful Don’t Cross Your Heart, it’s hard not to sing-along and when it comes to good ole boys playing good ole tunes, that’s the only thing that matters.
Like many of us, the PEI band is conflicted by past and future. Acid revisits the good ole days and that immortality we all felt and every Canadian kid has felt the pleasure of opening the government cheque for $48.75 each and every quarter (encapsulated nicely in the whimsical instrumental, GST Cheques Are Here), but they have the foresight to look to the future and the potential it has, whether it’s something as simple as “bags of money”, land and an easier life or something as complex as finding the pure love for which we all pine or growing into the man we want to become.
For me, I think the band works best when they give the songs the freedom to run, keeping the tempo and energy high. There Is No Understanding Between Tree and Man glistens, perfectly crafted for BBQs and drives on the dirt roads of country towns. The closer, I’ll See You builds off a simple acoustic line, but the piano infuses the track rollicks along happily and even as it pushes towards the 6-minute mark, never loses momentum and finishes the record on a high.
PEI's Haunted Hearts
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There are two things to remember before listening to Prince Edward Island's Haunted Hearts new ro...
There are two things to remember before listening to Prince Edward Island's Haunted Hearts new rockin' album Thank You, Goodnight.
The first: don't judge a band by its name. We all do it. I'm not saying - really! - that it's a bad name per se. This band is folksy/rootsy. It's not . . . whatever the name makes it sound to be. And sure their hearts may be haunted - in fact, their myspace claims that we all have haunted hearts - but perhaps their haunted hearts are somewhat healed by writing jaunty tunes with their buds.
The Second: Just because a band is new doesn't mean that the musicians are too. Haunted Hearts features locally famous guitarist Dan Currie among an equally impressive roster. Vocalist (and guitarist) Dennis Ellsworth is as capable as The National's Matt Berninger. Throughout the 12-track LP, they are simultaneously flashy and simple. Though occasionally the pianist gets a little too, um, trilly (Think: the piano version of Christina Aguillera's Christmas album. What? I'm the only one who's heard that?), mostly they pull it off without a hitch.
The album is so catchy it's hard to believe that it's a debut. I played it at my workplace - a small bookstore - and people kept asking who it was and if we sold the CD. I suppose that should be high praise enough. I was skeptical of the song 'GST Cheques are here!" until I looked at the name. What a celebration of Atlantic Canadian culture! Hats off to you, boys.
Bottom line: If you like The National, Cracker, Neko Case or Midlike, you'd like Haunted Hearts. Their debut is a solid, catchy gem that juxtaposes darker themes with getting drunk with the boys. They pull it off nicely.
Thank You, Goodnight
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I'm not sure what I find more infuriating about Thank You, Goodnight: the fact that Haunted Hearts s...I'm not sure what I find more infuriating about Thank You, Goodnight: the fact that Haunted Hearts sent me a version which had no identifying information embedded in any of the tracks (which meant that when it happened to come up on my iTunes, I had no idea who I was listening to), or the fact that the album doesn't seem to be for sale anywhere.
Actually, seeing the choice laid out like that, I know exactly what I find more frustrating: the whole lack of availability thing. As annoying as it was to not know who I was listening to the first time I stumbled across Thank You, Goodnight, it was still kind of thrilling to hear something unknown turn out be so good. I mean, as I was listening to songs like "There is No Understanding Between Tree and Man" and "Acid" I was honestly so baffled as to who it was that a part of me was actually wondering when and how I'd added The Band to my music library and not realized it. That's not the kind of thought you have when you dislike an album, so I'd say that the lack of identifying info was actually sort of a point in the band's favour.
By contrast, it boggles my mind that Haunted Hearts don't have their debut for sale anywhere. Albums as good as Thank You, Goodnight deserve to be heard, yet the band doesn't even suggest people contact them via their Myspace to find out how they can get a copy. Which means I'll have to do it for them: e-mail Haunted Hearts right now, and ask them how you can get your hands on their outstanding debut. You won't be disappointed (and you may even get them to make the album available somewhere).
Who You Gonna Call?
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Haunted Hearts, locals of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, already have all the makings of a great “go to” band: the sort you can call up last minute, who'll turn up rehearsed with their own equipment and blow the roof off every time. 'Thank you, Goodnight' is a solid “go to” CD, one you can listen to any time, any place and find something to enjoy, from the opening title track driven by some excellent organ work, through the slide guitar and honky-tonk piano of 'Haunted Hearts' and 'GST Cheques Are Here' to the quiet melancholy of 'Disappear When You Need To'.
For a debut album the range of songs and the quality of the performances are impressive. Originally a side project for Dennis Ellsworth whose vocals adapt to the album's different moods wonderfully, Haunted Hearts have a great chemistry and nobody is left in the background.
If there is a problem with 'Thank you, Goodnight' its that Haunted Hearts have yet to find a distinctive sound. Like the proverbial “go to” band, their adaptability is both a strength and a weakness. With no two songs sounding the same, even sounding as if they are by the same band, there is almost too much to take in. At the end of 'Acid', Ellsworth sings a refrain of "I've done all this, Yes I have, Yes I have". Yes he has and you can't help but be impressed and wonder just where Haunted Hearts are going to go next.
Date review added: Thursday, September 17, 2009
Reviewer: David Harry
Reviewers Rating: 7 out of 10
Haunted Hearts - Thank You, Goodnight
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At the end of every break-up, there is always that moment when, finally sick of drowning his sorrows...At the end of every break-up, there is always that moment when, finally sick of drowning his sorrows, crying into his beer and generally feeling sorry for himself, a man – every man – will start trying desperately to find something to laugh about (even if it's bitterly self-deprecating laughter) and try to inhabit a moment that seems to make life worth living. It's always a boozy truth, but it's also an important one because it signals that the healing process has begun – even if it doesn't feel that way yet. It is that moment upon which Haunted Hearts' album, Thank You, Goodnight, teeters precariously and, when one looks at the album that way, it becomes apparent that there isn't a microtone on it that isn't a little wounded but determined to overcome.
The album begins right at that initial endpoint when, at last call in some lonely bar, singer Dennis Ellsworth finally says enough is enough (although still sort of clinging to the perceived need to “spend what [he's] got on her,” even though he knows he can't – not anymore – and this is the last waltz) and walks, maybe misty-eyed, right out the front door.
The eleven songs that follow that title track find the singer pouring himself into everything he can think of and find a way to smile, laugh or otherwise distract him from the heart of the heartache – from jubilant, Louisiana-style rave-ups (“Haunted Hearts”) to Band-ian folk rock (“There Is No Understanding Between Tree And Man”) to stone-broke goofing off (“GST Cheques Are Here!”) to small town country kicks (“Acid”) but, as every turn and seemingly when least expected, that girl and the hurt she created creeps back (as is the case in "I Thought My Name Was Dark Clouds,” “Disappear When You Need To” and “I Only Mean Well”) as a reminder of what the whole point of the exercise was in the first place. As the record progresses, she begins to re-appear with ever-greater regularity too.
Ellsworth comes pretty near to a reconciliation with that love in “Don't Cross Your Heart” as, with all the hope in his heart, he asks her not to make him any promises she can't keep. For a second, it almost seems like the outlook of this narrative is a little brighter for our hero – but it doesn'r last. As early as on the very next track (“Something For You”), the whole thing has collapsed again, but this time the game has changed. Ellsworth doesn't return to the bar this time; once bitten, twice shy, as both the singer and the record bid listeners adieu in “I'll See You,” the lasting impression left is that things will be alright and the singer has resolved to move on. It's not the greatest set of circumstances playing out in those alt-country climes at the end, but it could be worse; the soul-crushing cycle could repeat.
With the psychodrama of Thank You, Goodnight sewn up in the end, listeners are left feeling warm as they would having just walked out of a movie theater after a really good, romantic film. Through the album, memories of the good crashed headlong into terrifying, tragic reality before getting even worse and then starting to maybe – just maybe – look up in the end – it's very reaffirming and leaves listeners hungry for the next great adventure. Whether Thank You, Goodnight was intended to play this way and resemble a concept album or not, that's how it develops and, in addition, like any good serial production, those that come upon it will be hooked for life to see every future twist and turn the ongoing story of Haunted Hearts takes.
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Haunted Hearts is the latest project of Charlottetown scene greybeard Dennis Ellsworth. One of the I...Haunted Hearts is the latest project of Charlottetown scene greybeard Dennis Ellsworth. One of the Island's more prolific frontmen, he has also lent his throat to the Rude Mechanicals and Battery Point. With a pedigree like that, it should come as no surprise that Thank You Goodnight is an absolutely stellar album. I saw Haunted Hearts live shortly before listening to Thank You Goodnight and was pleasantly surprised at how much of the feel of their live show they were able to put on the record. It sounds just the way it should-lots of clarity, but no gloss or overproduction. Although Haunted Hearts are probably best placed in the "alt-country" camp, Thank You Goodnight has killer grooves of many kinds. There are saloon-style swings, hard-driving four-on-the-floors, and waltzes that'll have you and yer sweetheart dancin' cheek to cheek. Everything revolves around principal songwriter Ellsworth's voice and guitar, capably backed by piano ornamentation and a "less is more" rhythm section. The record's subject matter will quickly endear itself to you, too, with songs condemning deforestation, recalling the acid-fuelled drunken debauchery of one's younger years, and celebrating that incomparable satisfaction that comes in the mail 4 times a year-the GST cheque. Clearly, this is the people's music. Devotees of The Band and Blue Rodeo will be sucked right in. It won't matter whether you like country music or not; you will love this record guiltlessly. And hey, January is GST cheque month, so if you haven't already blown the whole thing at the liquor store, Thank You Goodnight would be a great way to spend a couple of bucks.
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