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Sun Kil Moon – Ghosts of the Great Highway

Sun Kil Moon

I’ve always felt Mark Kozelek to be one of the great songwriters of our time; despite the trials and tribulations he’s caused for himself, or his penchant periods of classic rock obsession. “Katy Song” off of the self-titled Red House Painters release still affects me today, and that album is definitely one of the 10 “stranded on a deserted island” musical favorites.

It seems that time is finally back on his side, after years holed up in his San Francisco apartment struggling to finish Songs For A Blue Chair, which didn’t deliver the monetary rewards the label had hoped, to moving beyond the RHP moniker and even solo projects to emerge with Sun Kil Moon. The art for forming landscapes of thought through words and music is still there, and even more refined, like a fine, aged scotch – succulent on the lips and warming you from the inside out.

Ghosts of a Highway is extremely reflective, from stark introduction of “Glenn Tipton” an ode to his home state on “Carry Me Ohio,” with the signature wisps of vocal beauty Kozelek makes sound so easy, in his languid and graceful manner. But it is our past that makes a lot of what we are today, and even when Kozolek is telling his own personal story, we embrace it as our own and find some way to connect to what we may have experienced on roads less traveled.

That rocker edges whips out is raucous tail on “Lily and Parrots,” clicking in a higher energy in the midst of songs layered in gauzy softness. This song unto itself shows a different side to his songwriting, and may express the new direction he’s taking Sun Kil Moon while he creates guitar masterpieces on tracks like “ Duk Koo Kim.”

Mark Kozelek had never given a crap about what people, including his fans, thought of his musical exploration. If he wanted to create reinterpret AC/DC songs or a tribute to John Denver, he made it happen. At the same time, he’s always demanded your attention when he is making his music for you. I recall one show at the Hotel Utah years and years ago in San Francisco where someone was having an intense conversation during their set, and that conversation and the set were abruptly halted so he could tell her to shut up (much to the chagrin of the rest of us who were thinking the same thing).

Whether your enjoying the intimate atmosphere of a place like Utah or the confines of your bedroom, the Ghosts of the Great Highway will not only haunt your thoughts days later, but reestablish your faith that great songwriting is still happening in world bent on flash and circumstance.


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