Kristen Grainger & True North are a pleasant Americana band from the Pacific Northwest. They are accomplished musicians with obvious experience on the bluegrass circuit. They are the sort of band youâ€™d expect to be playing folk festivals and cafes. For the most part, their power comes from sincerity and calm presence. It would be easy to just let the tunes wash over you like a warm summer rain. If you want, you can take in the superficial prettiness and be happy with that.
Or, you can listen to what theyâ€™re singing about. â€œTattooed Love Songâ€ drifts by calmly enough. A bit of phrasing on the chorus caught my attention because it reminded me of Stan Rogers. Then I notice that theyâ€™re singing about migrant farm workers going from job to job, hoping their luck holds.
â€œThe Ghost of Abuelitoâ€ is the stand out track onÂ Ghost Tattoo. Grainger tells the story of a family fleeing violence in Ecuador. The young boy says his Abuelitoâ€™s (grandfather) ghost comes to him when heâ€™s afraid and when heâ€™s there, Miguel can be brave. Their grandfather believed in the United States He believed that the Americans would always help the refugee and those in need. Thatâ€™s why the family fled north.
At the border, the family is intercepted. The border patrol takes their mother away. The children are sent to one of the kiddie concentration camps. Miguelâ€™s sister sums up the soul killing effect; â€œMinutes to hours, days to weeks, Miguel my brother hardly speaks, bit by bit heâ€™s disappearing I asked him if heâ€™d say the prayer that would bring Abuelito here, he says Abuelito’s hard of hearingâ€
Ghost TattooÂ is a pleasant album. Iâ€™m not that big a fan of this sort of mellow Americana music, but â€œGhost of Abuelitoâ€ makes it a keeper. I wish a song like this could have the power of something like â€œBlowing in the Windâ€ in 2020.