Someone needs to sign this band. Today. Every now and then you find an unsigned band who make it all worthwhile, and that’s how I feel about Buffalo’s The Midnight Ghost Train. Not only are they self-financing a full month-long US tour, but their bluesy, boozy, diverse six-track The Johnny Boy EP – which is actually about 50 minutes long – is pushing the stoner envelope with a sound as natural as it is brazen. A trio featuring Steve Moss on guitar and vocals, Keith Harry-Carey on bass (since replaced by O.D. Lallo of L.O.M.F. and formerly Negative Reaction) and drummer Jake Levin (since replaced by Brandon Burghart), also on piano, The Midnight Ghost Train is one of those bands who actually deliver when you say, “Wow, I sure hope there’s a harmonica on this song.” The Johnny Boy EP opener “Brothers” gets moving with a driving riff and the memorable, charming lyric, “I’m in love with a new girl every week.” Moss’ vocal has a very stoner rock rough edge, and on the softer, longer, more atmospheric “Stranger” he seems to have taken a diction cue from Eric Wagner’s later work in Trouble. Not a bad thing since it works coupled with the echoing, bluesy guitar. Throughout The Johnny Boy EP, the compositions remain diverse. “Waltz” keeps in line with “Stranger” and “Brothers” lyrically, furthering the theme of love come and gone over a bed of post-grunge heavy/quiet tradeoffs. The fuzzy bass leads the way, lending the song a sub-experimental bent that transitions well into the piano-laden “In Fog.” Soulful guest female vocals from Caitlin Koch and more harmonica make the song a standout and highlight on the EP – at least until the 17-minute “Woman of Hate,” which again features Koch and seems to cull together all the elements thus far presented and set them against a Sleep-s t y l e riff and a mad ramble beginning just after the song hits ten minutes. The long slowdown/deconstruction of “Woman of Hate” – clearly meant as the apex of the album – ends in faded out feedback and the epilogue/closer “Do You Feel” finds Moss strumming an acoustic guitar and saying, “I’m just gonna go for it… Done while a pretty girl sleeps,” before delivering another lonely lyric. At about 2:42, it’s a quick, sentimental ending, but is one more reminder of the multi-faceted approach of The Midnight Ghost Train, who in just six tracks have helped validate the assertion that stoner rock is still alive and vibrant in the US and that there are bands out there still waiting to be discovered by the few who know enough to go find them. And hopefully when they do find them, they sign them. Because, yeah, that needs to happen.
Review by JJ Koczan (The Obelisk) (StonerRock.com)
The Midnight Ghost Train from Topeka, Kansas must be one of the hardest working band around at the moment judging by the impressive upcoming show list on their Myspace site. The Midnight Ghost Train main man is guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss who also plays bass on the record. Brandon Burghart is on drums after joining around the time of the excellent Johnny Boy EP but the remarkable thing is all the guests that contribute to this fine CD, i will get to that later. The main feature and focal point of the band and this album is Steve Moss and his guitar tone and sound. Displaying some thick sludge with some good old desert rock fuzziness, its his sound which made me dig this CD from the very first spin. The best moments are the heavier ones like in "Die With Me" and the more doom ridden "The Swell". Not that the other tracks are not up to the same standard, it just when its heavy, the band seems to be really cooking. What sets this album apart from most in the scene is the different guest musicians on here that add some extra color and other dimensions to the band's songs. On the moody "Desert Red" you get some violin and cello and some vocals from Joseph Hester. Former drummer Jake Levin does a raw lead vocal on the track "Mustache" and is one of the albums strongest moments. "River Slit" has some great fuzz rock playing especially when it comes to the lead playing which is great throughout the entire album. "They’re Burying Me Alive" features the back-up of Edward Jackson but this track is mostly a spoken word type of track and didn't really stand out as being one of the better tracks on offer here but still very listenable. With all these extra vocals, special mention must go out to Moss himself who has good vocals in their own right but the fact they have chosen all these extra vocalists just adds some uniqueness to this album as a whole. "Woman Of Hate" ends the official track-listing with some killer stoner groove but there is a hidden track that follows that is very much the most minimalist on the album. At the other end of the album is the opener "I Drink Your Blood" which is pretty much just a intro piece to "The Swell". The conclusion i reached after hearing this album is they one of the more unique bands in the stoner scene even though i don't know if the "stoner tag" applies too well here. There is a bluesy element to their playing as well as a fair degree of extended experimentation. Most of the songs are long with 6 songs all over 6 minutes but even the longest tracks don't drag on at all. There is a looseness to the songs that give off a bar-room vibe to the album which i love by the way and the way the album is always adding new elements keeps it interesting. There is nothing i would change about the album, even the weaker moments keeps me listening. One of the most underrated bands around at the moment, i hope they get some real recognition soon. 9/10
Review By Doom Metal Alliance
The room was basically a glorified VFW, or a Knights of Columbus hall in Bayonne, New Jersey, and I’d never seen The Midnight Ghost Train before. The trio, then from Buffalo, now hailing from Kansas, had a thickened, rootsy blues take on stoner heaviness, and though the layout of the place was awkward and the stage absurdly high, guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, then-bassist Odie Lallo (since replaced by Will Shumate) and drummer Brandon Burghart owned the room with the presence and sound of a veteran road act. Turns out that’s not just coincidence. In fact, if Moss has his way, they’d never come off tour. It’s an attitude more reminiscent of the DIY hardcore punk of the early ’80s than the usual stoner rock real-life commitments that keep so many bands from wider-ranging gigs — jobs, families, etc. Moss, who logged over 1,000 miles just in the move from Buffalo to Topeka, has an unwavering passion for The Midnight Ghost Train. This has led to some shifts in lineup, but more importantly, to the band’s recently-reviewed self-titled debut full-length. The album, self-released and distributed for free in both physical and digital form via their MySpace, harnesses the power of their live show while simultaneously panning it out and expanding in ways that space in Bayonne simply wouldn’t be able to handle. I didn’t have the record that night to compare it to (though that is when I picked up their preceding release, The Johnny Boy EP), but looking back on that show now, it’s clear their set was only just a sample of the band’s potency and vibrant, organic approach. Moss recently took some time out to field an email interview about The Midnight Ghost Train, band and album, and the changes they’ve brought about in his life.
Review From The Obelisk.