A Ghost of Hope
‘A Ghost of Hope’ was recorded at Marigny Studios in New Orleans, Louisiana and produced by Rick G Nelson of The Afghan Whigs. It is Jonny Driver’s first official offering as a solo artist and a major stylistic departure from all his previous work.
It’s a widescreen album with the guitars and tempos dialled back a touch, in order for pianos and strings to come more to the fore. The arrangements are broad and imaginative with plenty of dynamics as Driver eschews his heavy rock roots to explore more intricate sounds. There’s time and space here for more melodic explorations and beautiful acoustic intros not least on the opening track A Day Without Blame, which bursts effortlessly from verse into a glorious chorus, setting the perfect scene for the following 35 minutes.
There are plenty of examinations of relationships under stress, or heading for terminal disaster (Fireworks, Indecision). Or deep infatuation (Semi-Automatic), with its gorgeously weird-sounding lead break. A Little Bit Less is heartland Americana rock via Melbourne, Australia. Indecision features a sweet arpeggio acoustic refrain which moves aside for bursts of swaggering mid-tempo rock.
Things are cranked up further on the stomping Sentiment, a hard rocker with a soaring chorus heavy on hooks whilst Self-Made Man eases back into a near silence as ghostly violins shimmer and scrape before kicking back in with force.
The elegiac final track Aporia is beautifully orchestrated with a battery of strings and sweet piano asides. The vocal delivery is sincere and emotional and suggests that Driver hasn’t just written these songs, he’s lived them.
‘A Ghost of Hope’ is testament to Driver’s evolution from dive bar rocker to mature and skilful songwriter aided and abetted by a great band. It’s catchy and melodious yet it somehow leaves you feeling slightly uneasy and anxious, and I’m ok with that.