En route to becoming one of the most promising and captivating guitarists in the jazz world, seven-string master Davy Mooney managed to stash away a large cache of songs. On his first non-instrumental release, Ghosts of Music, Past, the first local grad from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz divulges a wistful set of jazz-flecked folk numbers. Evocative and emotional, exquisite and elegiac, here the perspicacious artist proves his poetry is as perceptive as his playing. Akin to early era Tom Waits—though on a less gritty, more ethereal level—Mooney threads drifting tales of mystery and melancholy over sparse, intimate accompaniments. “I’ve outgrown this coffin of a town,” he muses atop a clarinet breeze on “There and Back Again.” On “Only Summer,” he pines for a lost love as seasons fade: “Cruel the dreams that plague the sleep / Dark and fathomless the deep / Painful, slow the seasons creep ’til summer.” Also similar to Waits, Mooney’s pleas resonate so poignantly and so profoundly that the effects are often arresting.
Musically, Ghosts of Music, Past’s deep, vibrant textures shade the singer’s fragile longings. Moving guitar arpeggios, pensive piano swells, and a playful melodica solo sweep the heartbreaking lullaby “Summer Shower Song” up into a tender catharsis.
While the first half of Ghosts is sprinkled with delicately nuanced jazz, the tunes on the second half ring with a more folk-orientated feel. Still, themes of woeful reflection and unrequited love pervade, so much so that the weight of Mooney’s despair becomes almost too much to endure. “Love won’t last forever / It came, it saw, it fled / It stung us and now it’s dead,” he laments on “Maybe Tomorrow.” Likewise, the lovelorn ballad “Lisa, Darling” digresses into a collage of misery. Though perhaps a few tracks too deep, this haunting suite, rife with suffering and sorrow, glistens with stirring beauty and subtle elegance.