On “Don’t Feel Like Living,” Christopher Gold sings about “too many nights in too many bars, just waiting for the lights to come on.” We’ve all been there — after all, Madison is one of the drunkest cities in America. Who hasn’t gotten a little overserved on a night out, only to be brought crashing back to reality when, say, your boss shows up unexpectedly? (Because I definitely haven’t, FYI.)
Gold certainly knows, and his excellent new album You Are a Ghost is full of ruminations on what happens when the party actually ends.
The Appleton-based troubadour plays a slightly punkier version of heartland rock that’s garnered him comparisons to artists like The Gaslight Anthem’s Brian Fallon. Like Fallon, Gold has a penchant for stripping back his songs. In fact, there are two albums within You Are a Ghost: 10 original rock songs performed with his band, The New Old Things, and another 10 tracks featuring acoustic versions of those same songs.
One of the reasons for double dipping, Gold says, was practicality.
“I play between 100 and 150 shows a year, and well over half of them are solo shows because that’s what’s called for or the band isn’t available,” he says. “So [when] I play solo shows and people ask which of my records sound the most like my live set, I have to explain that none of them do because I record with a band. This time I wanted to have something that really accurately represented the live set, too.”
You Are a Ghost (the rock version, that is) has a very heavy Drag the River vibe to it, and that’s not just because of Gold’s eerie vocal similarity to that band’s vocalist, Chad Price, who also sang in punk legends ALL. It zigzags between shitkicking rock ‘n’ roll like “Devils” and more down-tempo alt-country like album highlight “Further South.” The latter is a triumph lyrically as Gold celebrates his own hybrid of southern roots and northern mentality while addressing the near-fetishizing of Dixie many artists from north of the Mason-Dixon tend to do when writing country songs.
Gold is at his best when baring himself. As a family man and professional musician, he’s a living representation of the dichotomy of “the party” and “after the party.” He addresses this directly on “When I Was Gone,” singing: “They had their medicines, that daily dose to make me feel okay. But as the days went on I got too bitter to ever want to stay.”
A native of Owensboro, Kentucky, Gold cut his teeth playing in the blues-punk act The Dirty Rotten So & So’s before moving to Appleton and beginning a solo career, marking himself as one of many ex-punks who made the jump to Americana. But he sees it as more of a reunion.
“The two genres just aren’t that different,” Gold says. “They’re both no frills, stripped back, honest music. And another reason is that people aren’t going from punk to Americana; they’re going back to Americana. Many of the people doing it will tell you they grew up listening to folk and country and then just rediscovered it at some point.”
Gold will be celebrating the release of You Are a Ghost tomorrow (Monday, May 15) at The Frequency as part of a bill with a pair of alt-country luminaries: Milwaukee’s Hugh “Bob” Masterson and Brian Elmquist, frontman of Brooklyn, N.Y.-based band The Lone Bellow. It’s one of two Frequency shows for Gold next week; he’ll also open for Hope Country on Thursday, May 18.