Tuscon, Arizona, duo Sweet Ghosts took their name from a poem by Jack Gilbert: “Again and again we put our sweet ghosts on small paper boats and sailed them back into their death …” And listening to Sweet Ghosts’ latest release Certain Truths, it is easy to imagine “sweet ghosts on small paper boats.” The album is melancholy and acoustic with the pitch and drift of a boat on water.
The twosome, comprised of Katherine Byrnes (known as a backup singer for Amos Lee) and Ryan Alfred (also of Calexico), find inspiration in the Southwest desert, “though perhaps not directly in terms of instrumentation and compositional ideas from the area,” Alfred clarifies (writing to EW from the dressing room of a bullfighting arena in Madrid).
“Tucson is a very open, dry, warm town, and I spend a lot of time just biking around the city, hiking in canyons,” he says. “I think that sense of space and openness has definitely seeped into my life, and found its way into our music, which has a very open, relaxed feel.”
Gilbert describes the duo’s sound as “ambient folk-Americana, taking inspiration from classic singer-songwriters like Kris Kristofferson and decorating it with light orchestral touches and electronic details.” A description particularly apt for Truths track “Detroit.” Alfred’s husky tenor and Byrnes’ alto intertwine in a tale of dive bars, vacant junkie eyes and empty streets, culminating in a refrain of “Hallelujah” delivered like coyotes calling to one another from a distant ridge.
Sweet Ghosts play with the seven-piece Roselit Bone and Eugene’s Cañada 9 pm Wednesday, Aug. 6, at Sam Bond’s; $7.