Pauline Andres “All Them Ghosts”

Independent, 2021

Powerful lyrics with Southern Gothic stylings pull no punches in Andres’ re-release of her 2014 album.

Artwork for Pauline Andres album "All Them GhostsAll Them Ghosts‘ is a re-release with new vocal takes of Andres’ 2014 album originally recorded and released in Berlin, following her move to Nashville. Raised in a coal-mining town on the Franco-German border, Andres’ self-penned songs tackle the tougher side of existence, with no punches pulled in her lyrics. The title track and album opener sets out the collections’ stall, as Andres sings I know he beat on her with his belt/and all her life she cried inside/she never had the words to say how she felt/and how she kept it out of sight/for the men who never gave a damn/her husband, her father and their goddamn pride/he left her with three kids in a foreign land/one of them was a rape child”, based on the stories of the lives of her grandmothers.

Firmly in the Southern Gothic camp musically, Andres’ vocals are dark and atmospheric, never more so than on ‘Sad Miracle’, the only wholly new track on the album, a pro-choice song that tells of her experience of seeking an abortion in the southern states. When you know you know/and so I’ll do what must be done/would it be a daughter or a son/nothing has ever, ever felt so wrong/Alabama outlaw/a whore in Mississippi/ain’t no one’s blood on my hands, you see/and I will not feel guilty/it’s just a sad, a sad miracle/and damn your signs with them slaughtered babies/it’s just a sad, sad miracle/and next Friday it will be a bad memory.”

A lighter tone is struck with ‘I Remember Her’, a reflection on childhood memories, Andres’ lyrics painting a vivid picture of a free spirit who finds escape less easy than it seems: I was born with blond curls round cheeks and a fairy nose/I was queen of attention and a genius for inventions/messy child with messy hair to grow up free like the air/I never got used to closing the doors and I’d never pick up the scissors of the floor/now my hair is as dark as the coal my father used to dig out/I thought I’d fly away but I fell in a hole, life ain’t all choices I found out.”

On ‘Like in Every Country Song’ a hard-partying lifestyle is told with humour, “Like in every country song I’m trying hard to forget you/and I’ll crawl home in the early hours feeling oh so blue/and around noon I’ll stumble out of a cold, cold be/I will wonder at which point I hit the bar with my head/and I’ll listen to the blood pumping hard in my chest/one more day on my own and a night with no rest.”

Powerful messages and sharp observation make for a memorable if sometimes uncomfortable listen.

7/10
7/10

About David Jarman 57 Articles
Long time fan of Americana genre, from early days of Ry Cooder, through to today's thriving scene. Regular visitor to USA ( Nashville/Austin/Memphis/LA ) live music junkie, I play guitar, mandolin, harmonica, plus vocals, run monthly jam session in Broadstairs

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