OK, I must confess that Phantom Limb completely passed me by and it is more by good fortune than good planning that I find myself writing this review of their first, eponymous album …admittedly coming a little late to the party. Sadly it would seem that in January of this year they split!
Formed in 2004 the band released their first album in 2008 and on first listen it would seem that the band are trailing a well trodden track of alternative country blues seeped with good old Southern vibes. Yolanda Quartey’s vocal is full to the brim and overflowing with emotion and with that indefinable quality that immediately has you thinking, by god this woman can sing! So it comes as no surprise then that the band come from…err, Bristol.
The songs on the album Phantom Limb are well crafted with an immediate sense that this is (or was) a band that knows what they are doing behind their instruments. Guitar is played with strength and yet restraint that underpins the sound throughout. On “My Love Has Gone”, the albums fourth track, you have “steel” guitar playing along with keys, slow, plodding supporting bass and drums, as well as beautiful vocal harmonies which come together to bring you a tune that builds to Yolanda belting out the title.
It’s easy to perhaps make comparisons to the likes of some of the obvious names in alt country and perhaps some Fleetwood Mac, but that would be to undersell Phantom Limb. They have the spirit of the aforementioned, and others, but, that’s not to say that they are out date or with a personality all of their own. Quite the opposite, they sound fresh, modern and vibrant.
Phantom Limb are much more than a mere carrier for the wonderful vocal talent on show from Quartey, they are a homogenous group that feel tight and in harmony with each other – a feat that can only be acquired by knowing each other and playing together live!
I mentioned Fleetwood Mac earlier and if you are a fan of the Rumours album then you will love the track “Run” from Phantom Limb. It encompasses simple guitar and a beautiful vocal at the start which builds to an up-tempo, toe-tapping and head nodding chorus. It is immediately accessible and gloriously infectious. Just the kind of music you want to put on the hifi and play loud…and for that matter over and over like I have done in the last few hours.
“We Will Carry”, the eighth tune on the album starts off with a haunting piano, slide guitar, lush strings and the soaring voice of Quartey. It is full of emotion, feeling and is something of an epic that, despite the female vocal reminds me of the very best of some of Neil Young’s output – no bad thing by any stretch!!
The tenth and final track of the album is “The Hard Way” which initially brings to mind a late night, smoky club with the band backing the singer who is pouring her heart out to the audience lit by a single spot – you get he picture! It builds and builds to bring more of the band to the fore and is a fitting finale to what is quite simply a stunning album which I really cannot recommend highly enough and I think I may have found an album that will get played over and over for a long time yet!
The playing is exemplary, Quartey’s voice is sublime yet powerful with a huge range and raw emotion, the production is superb and on 24bit 48Khz download it sounds absolutely stunning!Buy it!!! I’m looking forward to hearing their last album “The Pines” which I’ll be reviewing over the next few days.