Joe Hodgson – Apparitions (14)

Apparitions is a new album from London-based guitarist, Joe Hodgson. Originally from Northern Ireland, this ultra-prolific artist somehow manages to crank out high quality releases left and right. This latest one contains 15 full-bodied tracks. While the songs initially might appear to be just awesome and bluesy rock jams, they actually have a deeper and more personal meaning to the artist.

Apparitions was apparently recorded during a difficult time period, when Joe had returned to Ireland in order to take care of his ailing mother. “It was soul-destroying to see the person I loved most in the world just wither away in front of my eyes, and it had a profound effect on me and my music,” he says. “Playing guitar proved to be my savior though, and writing and recording the album was an incredibly cathartic experience.”

However, the music is by no means downtrodden or bleak. Rather, Apparitions incorporates a wide range of emotions in its soul-searching examination of the human experience. There’s sadness and sentimentality of course, but also anger, excitement, love and optimism. It’s all passionately expressed here (and entirely through instrumentals, I might add). Joe Hodgson is a fantastic guitarist and lets his music do the talking.

There’s so much variety and imagination in these songs, too. This is not just another generic rock guitar album. For example, the song Disruptor opens with a tender sampling of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy and transitions into high energy and impressively technical guitar playing. It’s heavy duty stuff, both musically and in terms of the emotions it evokes. Other tracks like Long Hard Look have a smooth grooving, bouncy, almost 80’s quality. My favorite song on here is probably The Player, with its “hot rod” like, adventurous melody and poolshark ambiance. If I was in the middle of an exciting drag race for the pink slip on my car, this is the song I’d want playing on the stereo as I was cruising toward the finish line. (15)

You can really appreciate how good this music is by how catchy the melodies are even without any lyrics. It’s more than just guitars, too. The vintage organ sounds really add a lot of vitality and dynamicism to the recordings. They give the songs a zestful personality, livening up the action while lightening the mood. The drums also play a big part. They create a robust, practically Earth shattering framework, really dialing up the rock’n’roll power level. Apparitions is quite frankly, a masterpiece on every level. The fact that the project has such a deep personal connection to the artist must make that all the more satisfying.

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