Whatever their time machine of choice, be it hot tub, DeLorian, magic red shoes (what… they are from Kansas…) or a stack of records, power-trio The Midnight Ghost Train have reset their clocks and gate-crashed the peak of the arid desert rock party that was the late 90’s and returned with all the big phat riffs, albeit with a darker and more nihilistic tone to their narratives in comparison to their Californian cousins, on their third album, Cold Was The Ground (Napalm).
New bassist Mike Boyne, often taking the role of prominent protagonist, fuzzes languid moves underneath Sabbathian grooves, as unhurried guitars roll out riffs that could be out-takes from the recording sessions of Fu Manchu’s The Action Is Go (Mammoth), and there really is a feel of enjoyment of their craft and making it seem effortless both in construction and delivery of the rockier moments, a confident nonchalance that makes ‘BC Trucker’ and the roil of ‘No 227’ simple, enjoyable bluster, while ‘Straight To The North’ shows a doomier side, with a tale to be told.
There is a sand-gritty heavy blues overtone to Cold Was The Ground , while the Ben Ward-esque gruffness of vocalist Steve Moss is suitably brusque, adding to the lo-fi bar-brawl charm, and his rhythms, patterns and storytelling lock with the riffs in a manner reminiscent of Neil Fallon and Clutch, particularly on ‘The Canfield’.
The Midnight Ghost Train don’t tend to do complicated, but on ‘The Little Sparrow’, all bass meander and spoken word account of (I assume) Moss’ relationship with music and the downsides of being in a band, they show there is more than one hoss in this town, before the Kyussed to the max downtuned blues ‘Twin Souls’ rambles in.
While neither the most original nor most challenging of listens, Cold Was The Ground is humble, modest, ramshackle and more than effective, with rockier tunes like ‘Gladstone’ and bluesier moments like instrumental ‘One Last Shelter’ showing that the desert is still an appealing place to get your rocks off.