The Ghosts of johnson city
The Ghosts of Johnson City seek to take listeners on a musical journey to some of the darkest hollows of America's greatest historical calamities and personal tragedies, from the battlefields of the Civil War and deepest Kentucky coal mines to the whaling grounds of the North Atlantic.
An archival project as much as a musical endeavor, the repertoire consists of seldom-heard traditional songs from a wide variety of historical archives, oral traditions and collective memory.
Based in Maine with musical roots in Appalachia and the Deep South, the group presents simple and soulful versions of old mountain music, Civil War songs, coal-mining melodies, disaster chronicles, haunting murder ballads and tunes of love and loss in times of poverty.
People and communities have always told their stories through songs. Created by lead vocalist and banjo player Amos Libby, the band takes its name from early childhood summers spent with Libby's late musician father in Jonesborough and Johnson City, Tennessee. Living in Maine and estranged from his father from an early age, Amos grew up with barely remembered images of his father playing guitar and singing in a trailer by the Nolichucky River, accompanying him to gigs in and around Jonesborough and Johnson City.
A gifted but troubled musician, Libby’s father died in 2003 at the age of 49, never having spoken to his son as an adult.
In January 2015, Amos traveled to Tennessee to meet with his father’s adopted daughter, who graciously handed him his father’s guitar — an instrument that he'd played at those gigs so many years ago when Amos was a child. The guitar is an embodiment of days and people that are now gone; memories from a time and place that inspire the music of The Ghosts of Johnson City.
With the upcoming release of the group's debut album "Am I Born to Die?" on October 20th, 2015, The Ghosts of Johnson City aim to tell long-forgotten stories of largely voiceless communities by adhering to tradition in presenting this timeless material to modern audiences across the world.
Amos Libby / Banjo, Lead Vocals
Douglas Porter / Guitar, Vocals
Erik Neilson / Baritone Ukulele, Vocals
Erik Winter / Harmonium
Ian Riley / Upright Bass
Media Praise for
"Am I Born to Die?"
"This is a record to savor when the thunderclouds come and pelt the panes with cold rain, when you sit and worry whether the river will rise and rush in under the cabin door." — The Bollard
"The body count is high, and narratives of suffering and struggle are central to this hefty folk concept album, wherein we slip between life and the afterlife as if lost in an Appalachian horror film helmed by David Lynch." — Dispatch Magazine
"From the opening of the record, one can imagine a company of 19th century soldiers embracing a campfire before they turn in, unsure if it will be their last. A dark, consistent hymnal aspect weaves in and throughout the record. The authentic sound hints that it very well could have derived from any of the past three centuries." — The Portland Phoenix
"While the songs are traditional favorites, the interpretations are fresh. I’m especially fond of the continuous slow burn of the harmonium in the background – it adds a layer of melancholy, haunted flavor, and to my ear, a hint of the sea." — Now This Sound is Brave
"…the music on the new album ‘Am I Born to Die?’ is on the haunting and dark spectrum of folk…each song reinforces the feeling of Appalachian dread…” — The Modern Folk Music of America
"It’s that depth — that dark, sorrowful magic from the old, weird America — that is often sorely missing from much new, contemporary folk music being produced these days. And it’s that darkness that is such a welcome, yet unsettling, presence on “Am I Born To Die?” the debut album from The Ghosts of Johnson City." — The Bangor Daily News
"...one part history lesson, one part spiritual sojourn into days long past and one part fantastic." — Maine Today