The Midnight Ghost Train, "Buffalo"
Buffalo, the new album from The Midnight Ghost Train, began like most records do: as ideas ricocheting among singer-guitarist Steve Moss, bassist David Kimmell and drummer Brandon Burghart on Moss’ 500-acre ranch in rural Kansas.
But the stage is where these soulful, riff-driven monsters found their shape. “We never are sure about a song until we do it live,” Moss says. “I can’t tell you how many songs we have thrown out after playing them live once.”
To be sure, Moss, Kimmell and Burghart have spent years honing their live chops the way Marines do basic training. Since 2007, the band has criss-crossed the United States 13 times and Europe twice, earning loyalty from fans through exuberant, jaw-dropping shows that left only one question: how to capture this on tape.
Enter David Barbe, whose credits include R.E.M., Drive-By Truckers and Bob Mould. Moss’ first phone call with the producer-engineer sealed the deal. “He said, ‘I promise you I will help you make this record sound just like your live show – just as intense and just as real.’” This past March, the band joined Barbe at Chase Park Transduction Studios in Athens, Ga.
Buffalo unfolds as a thrilling, 30-minute, blues-based behemoth. Burghart’s tribal tom work kicks off the record’s one-two punch, “A Passing Moment of Madness” and “Henry.” “Foxhole,” the first single, finds Moss calling up fat, nasty grooves matched by Kimmell’s stormy bass lines. “Tom’s Trip” flips the script slightly, revealing itself as a trance-induced journey that recalls the best characteristics of – if you have to say it – stoner rock.
But just when you think the Train has one speed, in comes an a cappella rendition of Lead Belly’s “Cotton Fields,” a taste of the band’s affinity for gospel, stomp-clap numbers that adds a spiritual dimension. The volume knob is never far away, though, and Buffalo reignites with murder ballad “Southern Belle” while “Into The Fray” gallops off on Burghart’s blood-and-guts drum parts underneath Moss and Kimmell’s satisfying interplay. “We wanted the sound of this record to be tangible,” Moss says. “We wanted you to be able to close your eyes and feel and taste the sweat and blood that we give off on stage.” Consider the job done.