Record Review: Ghost Town by PVD Hipster Folkies High Planes

New release of Americana music is perfect for summer listening


The band High Planes approaches folk in the vein of Josh Ritter, The Decemberists, James Taylor, and Joe Pug, allowing a simple chordal song structure and a story to form the foundation on which to layer various tools of the folk trade. Piano, harmonica, accordion, lead guitars, strings, and lush harmonies visit each track, taking moments to stand up and stand out between the all-important story that each song tells. 

High Planes started as a collaboration between Christian Caldarone and Annie Jaehnig that formed around songs written on the acoustic guitar. Their first album Mayday was recorded with bluegrass instrumentation in a folk-grass or new-grass genre. Says drummer James Toomey, “This worked for the first batch of songs, but the bluegrass structure became a little too constricting for some of the other songs Christian was writing, so Annie and Christian decided to expand the instrumentation a bit.”

Today High Planes counts seven band members, and on some Ghost Town tracks, even more, with friends and family enlisted to play. Toomey’s father-in-law, Paul Dube, a bluegrass musician, played some accordion in “Orphan Songs & Dirty Hands.” “Now we are really playing with the idea of how to incorporate so many instruments and voices,” says Toomey. “There are so many possibilities.”

As with most projects made during the past two years, the creation of Ghost Town relied on new processes. It was recorded over most of 2021 and the full band had very few chances to write and record together. “I headed up sound engineering for the first time,”  explains vocalist Caldarone. “Sessions were done with only one or two members at a time. Beyond the technical aspect of tracking, by far my favorite part of the process was working with everyone individually on developing parts. I loved sending progress tracks to everyone so the band members could hear songs being revealed session by session.”

Notably, Ghost Town hits a mid-album stride. Tracks four through eight showcase a broad range of takes on folk, allowing the various instrumentalists and vocalists to shine. The songs all hold a hard-working, introspective, after-hours, haunting quality that conveys the mill city vibe of northern Rhode Island, where many members are based.

“Christian’s songs range from various sources – some personal, some based on books or news items he’s read,” says Toomey. “He wrote ‘Season for the Ghosts’ after a long conversation he had with a friend who described her experience of being an empath. He was reading a Haruki Murakami novel at that time, so some of that type of imagery crept in as well. From Christian’s standpoint, he thinks what makes a good songwriting story is something that is relatable, has personal interesting details, and asks universal questions.” 

Local label Where The Living Room Used To Be released Ghost Town back in April on limited-edition lathe-cut vinyl and compact disc that includes a 12-page booklet with lyrics and features artwork by local photographer David Lawlor.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here