Listening to Scott Kelly and the Road Home‘s The Forgiven Ghost in Me, it’s almost like Kelly — best known as the guitarist/vocalist of Neurosis — can’t escape the heavy. One doesn’t often think of folk-derived stripped-down singer-songwriterisms as being especially weighted, but even through lyrics about near-religious redemption and forgiveness, there’s a sense the spirit remains heavy. And more, the delivery remains heavy. Kelly, who is joined in The Road Home by guitarist/vocalist Greg Dale and Neurosis keyboardist Noah Landis and whose songcraft is at the core of the project, seems to just bleed the stuff.
Certainly the vast majority of his output over the last 25-plus years would bear that out, but more perhaps on The Forgiven Ghost in Me (review here) than ever before in Kelly‘s career, that sense of weight is given a counterbalance. Sure, tracks like “Within it Blood,” “We Let the Hell Come” and “The Field that Surrounds Me” — which features guests Josh Graham (A Storm of Light, also Neurosis‘ visuals) on guitar and Jason Roeder (Neurosis, Sleep) on drums — have darkened and foreboding atmospheres, but there’s an answer to them in “We Burn through the Night” and “A Spirit Redeemed to the Sun,” or even the title-track, “The Forgiven Ghost in Me.” One need only to look at the titles and find images of hell, blood, burning, the sun and fire, to get a sense of the penance that has been the price of even this partial redemption, but it’s there, anyway.
But more than this offsetting defeat and triumph, The Forgiven Ghost in Me is about the songs themselves. It is a gorgeous listen, reveling in its moodier moments but never quite letting go of its sullen melodicism. Flourishes of tape noise on the darker “Within it Blood” may seem on paper to work against, say, the deep breath that starts off the album before “A Spirit Redeemed to the Sun” begins, but in the actual listen, it’s fluid. Kelly is talking about the sharing of influences below when he posits that, “Music is a stream,” but you could just as easily apply that to the context of these songs and how he’s positioned them on the album.
In the interview that follows, Kelly discusses that positioning process, as well as his songwriting and what it was in these songs that seemed to warrant the input of Dale and Landis, as opposed to his 2008 outing, The Wake, which was directly a solo affair, and what separates Scott Kelly and the Road Home from his prior non-Neurosis collaboration with Landis in Blood and Time, and much more. Neurosis have a new album due for release in October called Honor Found in Decay (info here), but I wanted to focus this conversation more on The Forgiven Ghost in Me and the impact Kelly‘s solo work has had on a heavy underground that might not otherwise have so readily discovered the likes of Townes Van Zandt, to whom Kelly, Neurosis bandmate Steve Von Till and Shrinebuilder bandmate and acoustic tourmate Scott “Wino” Weinrich paid homage on the Songs of Townes Van Zandt three-way split (track stream here) just a few months back.
He was as brutally honest in conversation as he is in his songwriting, as regards his work, what goes into it from and through him, and the influence it’s had on others.
You’ll find the complete Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.