ghost buffalo
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ghost buffalo

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One would reasonably expect a band called Ghost Buffalo from the hippie-friendly confines of northern Colorado to be yet another set of trustafarian jam band freaks providing sub-Phish background music for all one's hacky sacking and noodle-dancing needs. In fact, the Denver quintet is an odd mixture of alt-country twang and doomy post-punk, as if Gillian Welch and David Rawlings had reorganized themselves as a Siouxsie and the Banshees tribute act. Siren-voiced blonde guitarist Marie Litton is the band's musical and visual focal point, strongly resembling Lone Justice-era Maria McKee in both. Litton's romantic partner, guitarist Matt Bellinger (formerly of Denver emo rockers Planes Mistaken for Stars, alongside Ghost Buffalo's original drummer Mike Ricketts) provides the doomy, gothy side of the band's personality, leavened by Josh Coyle's folky acoustic guitar. Bassist Tom Ventura anchored the band's original lineup, which formed in 2003, but by the time Ghost Buffalo's self-titled debut album was recorded in the fall of 2005, Ricketts had been replaced by new drummer Andy Thomas. Shortly after Ghost Buffalo's release, the lineup changed yet again: Coyle, Ventura, and Thomas all left the band in 2006. A new four-piece lineup found Litton and Bellinger supported by bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jedd Kopp. ~ Stewart Mason, All Music Guide - All Music Guide



Maybe it’s because of its frontier and cow-town heritage, but Denver and the Colorado front range boast an impressive – and impressively diverse – alt-country scene, with everyone from the morose 16 Horsepower to the whiskey-soaked revivalists of Slim Cessna’s Auto Club to the honky-tonk harmonies of Drag the River covering pretty much all the alt-country bases.

It’s time to add another act, Ghost Buffalo, to the long line of Denver alt-country heroes. More traditional alt-country – or country-rock as they used to call it – than most of its hometown neighbors, Ghost Buffalo saddles up the alt-country ponies, but makes no bones about its love for rock’n’roll. Led by singer/guitarist Marie Litton, who sports a delivery that’s something like a hip and aware twist on Emmylou Harris’ classic pipes, Ghost Buffalo wraps up all the morose longing, energetic abandon and pop-friendly hooks of its country-rock brethren in Litton’s vocals alone. Demonstrating the sort of range that should make her a favorite of everyone from grumpy No Depression hard-liners to casual alt-country pop heads, Litton invests Ghost Buffalo with a slew of charms. With a grasp on everything from torch-ballad soul (“Pick Me Up”)and a rocker’s poise and confidence (“Crawl”) to a dyed-in-the-wool country crooner (“Hell Here” and “Ruin Everything”), Litton’s vocals add an easy immediacy none of her Colorado cow-punk contemporaries can match.

Ghost Buffalo is more than a great voice, however. Using alt-country as a vague, open-ended format, Ghost Buffalo brings its rootsy twang to arenas usually untouched by the hand of Americana. Outside a country-banging guitar lead, “Crows Feet” is pure late-’90s indie, calling up visions of everyone from Sarge to Beezus, and the messy-around-the-edges feel of “Ice Queen” place shimmering shoegazing aesthetics to work atop country-road rhythms. The five-piece sticks to the power-pop meets country formula of alt-country favorites in tracks like “Crawl,” “Hollow” and “Ruin Everything” as acoustic and electric guitars bop, two-step and twirl through pop melodies, roots guitar figures and outright country rhythms without kowtowing to the alt-country status quo.

Although Ghost Buffalo doesn’t pack the hipster-approved melancholy of Munly, Slim Cessna or 16 Horsepower, the act’s debut marks it as an equally important band. For the first time in recent history, Denver has an alt-rock band that isn’t afraid to embrace everyday pop and rock influences.

- Matt Schild


- Aversion.com


Don’t let the Seventies Eagles album artwork wallpapering Ghost Buffalo’s MySpace fool you. You know – those faux Georgia O’Keeffe sun-bleached cow skulls and huge desert roses that look like they were plucked right off the back of one of Gram Parsons’ cornflower-blue jackets. Well, don’t let it fool you completely.
Sure, Ghost Buffalo’s lead singer, Marie Litton, reminds me from time to time of pained and plaintive Linda Ronstadt (circa 1976), or Emmylou Harris somewhere between “Elite Hotel” and “Luxury Liner.” But mostly it’s Litton’s vocal affinity with the Cases – country noir chanteuse Neko Case and Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Case – that defines this band’s sound as something a little bit spookier and a lot more pop-soulful than most Big Sky alt-country artists I’ve encountered. Going for the Case trifecta, I’ll even say that Litton’s songcraft is reminiscent of Peter Case, the barrier-bashing ex-Plimsouls frontman who magically blended seminal new wave sounds with Hank Williams as easily as I slip on ice.

After a few listens, I can even detect punky touches of Cat Power and Exene Cervenka mixing in with the Loretta Lynn. And when the playing complementing the vocals is as inventive and atmospheric as it is here, this sort of angsty country-pop acquires a modern tension in place of the traditional pining and whining that underlie most honky tonk tunes. It may be largely de-twanged but it’s not de-fanged. The good ole boy foot-tappin’ has been replaced with a hipper, darker bomp.

Ghost Buffalo’s strengths are their ballads. The love songs are grievous, angelic, and hauntingly American, floated by Litton’s smooth crooning, which positively shimmers on the high end. Sometimes her style blends young Christine McVie sonically cavorting with Souixsie Souix. There’s always seems to be an element of Carter Country heartache colliding with a little Debbie Harry sass.

The playing is dark and brooding throughout, but never heavy-handed. Litton plays guitar along with fiancée-guitarist Matt Bellinger (formerly of Denver’s Planes Mistaken for Stars), and the unit is rounded out by bassist Tommy Ventura, guitarist Josh Coyle, and drummer Andy Thomas.

When the band lets loose, their sound and fury evokes the best of Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Up crawls a wall of feedback and reverb, with multiple blistering counter-riffs snaking through it. Litton’s voice inside this uncoiling and recoiling surge of power is delicate but strong. This could have all gone gothily bad, but doesn’t. On “Hell Here,” the absolute gem of a single available on their MySpace player, Litton’s aching vocals scratch out one tentative verse before the band’s harmonic attack erupts and envelopes her pain in swinging bells of sound without drowning her out. “Ruin Everything” blazes up instantly with interweaving Peter Buck guitars, and then steps gingerly down a staircase of single plump bass notes as Litton liltingly repeats the chorus against a backdrop of pulse-steady drum-strikes. “Bones” is a small fluttering bird of a song that never becomes oppressive no matter how much it flirts with a dirge. “Crow’s Feet” is a similarly dark treat, with the band’s serpentine electro-acoustic guitar blend (Bellinger and Litton on electrics, and Coyle on acoustic) as catchy as barbed wire strung between the verses of torched storyteller vocals.

MySpace also features the video for “Hell Here,” rife with dream-on-the-cusp-of-nightmare imagery, including a blackbird in flight against twisted, leafless trees. Set in what looks like an old Victorian mansion where time just might be standing still, scenes of each band member playing in a separate room while Litton steps tentatively across faded floorboards are intercut with a performance in what looks like the house’s parlor (such a quaint term). The singing and playing, combined with the images (which are best described as David Lynchian), create a sense-memory of loss, decay, and unsettled longing. Litton’s face has this creepy serenity about it, and as she backs against a wall, you’ll notice that her gown and the wallpaper share the same pattern. I half-expected her to fade into the wall itself, as if a ghost becoming what it haunts.

With songs as eerie and mysterious as a Colorado boom town gone bust, Ghost’s Buffalo’s MySpace invites you to listen – almost against your better judgement – to country rock in transformation.

Trust me, I survived the real country rock scare of the late 70s, and this is as far from the pot-fueled hoots of the New Riders of the Purple Sage as you can get (ever heard “Panama Red”?). And there’s no trace of the pussy-whipped caterwauling of Pure Prairie League either (ever heard “Amie”?).

A gift for grafting pop melodies onto haunting lyrics, all braced by the rhythm section’s restrained hard-corish dynamics, make Ghost Buffalo alt-country that deftly sidesteps sounding too funereal, weepy, or cheesily Tennesseetexifornian.

Beneath those big skies full of roil - Myspace


With so many recent shakeups, it's surprising that Ghost Buffalo isn't a ghost of itself. But despite that fact that founding guitarist Matt Bellinger left his main band, Planes Mistaken for Stars, right around the time that Planes drummer Mike Ricketts left Ghost Buffalo, GB landed on its feet -- and put all its muscle behind its self-titled, full-length debut on Suburban Home. The disc proves what fans of the quintet's live show have known all along: Ghost Buffalo is poised to become Denver's next breakout indie band. The disc melts indie pop, moody country and even a sliver of vintage goth into the dulcet strums and sighs of leader Marie Litton. With new drummer Andy Thomas -- not to mention a stunning video and yet another national tour on the horizon -- Ghost Buffalo has a whole new lease on the afterlife - Westword


Discography

Ghost Buffalo s/t full length.

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Bio

We coelesced in Denver Co. With a love for music. We all grew up primarily on independent rock, metal, punk, new wave, and Old Classic country.
We like to think our music is slightly genre defying, with songs ranging from Alt country, goth, rock and power pop.
Marie Litton's vocals sound like no other. She has one hell of an awsome range and emotion spills from her when she is on stage.
We are currently working with Denver's Suburban Home Records. We have released one recording and are in the process of writing a second record now.