Willis Pracht & Konnie Ott,
Ghosts of the Heart

Ghosts of the Heart is a rather short, sweet album of unadorned, beautifully rendered folk music. The ten songs aren't folk classics, but are done in the classic style, with vocals and harmonies accompanied by a lone guitar.

The standout for me here is the stunning version of Tom Paxton's "Last Thing on My Mind." The simply plucked guitar is the perfect foil to Willis Pracht's melodic voice and the harmonies from Konnie Ott that add so much poignancy. This is one of the best arrangements I've every heard, and it does amazing things with a song that easily rends one's heart in any version.

Most of the songs on this CD are sad, usually regretful about passing time and the losses this brings. "Time Moves On" is explicitly about this, and it's a theme in most of the other songs. It's not a despairing sadness, though, or the album would be very hard to listen to. The lyrics have hope, and the singing and playing emphasizes the blend of regret and a gentle optimism. (One exception is "The Chieftain's Daughter," and old, sentimental ballad about human sacrifice, although that description makes it sound far more edgy than it is.)

I like the way the songs' impact grow; the singing and arrangements are subtle and allow the songs themselves to shine as much as the performances.

The liner notes are minimal; I would have welcomed more about the songs and why these particular ones were chosen.

If you think that a lot of modern folk is overproduced, this is the album for you. It couldn't be simpler, and it couldn't be more lovely. It's a wonderful CD, for people who like a plain and elegant style, and who aren't afraid of sentiment.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]
Rambles: 3 November 2001