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.
Based in Maine with musical roots in Appalachia and the Deep South, this unique band presents simple and soulful versions of old mountain music, Civil War songs, coal-mining melodies, disaster chronicles, tunes of love and loss in times in poverty and haunting murder ballads.
Created by lead vocalist and banjo player Amos Libby, The Ghosts of Johnson City take their name from Amos’ childhood summers spent with his late musician father in Jonesborough and Johnson City, Tennessee. Estranged from his father from an early age, Amos grew up with barely-remembered images of hot summer days listening to his father play guitar and sing in a trailer by the Nolichucky River and accompanying him to gigs in and around Jonesborough and Johnson City. A gifted but troubled musician, Amos’ father died in 2003 at the age 49, never having spoken to him as an adult. In January of 2015 Amos traveled to Tennessee and met with his father’s adopted daughter who graciously have him his father’s guitar; and instrument that he had played at those gigs so many years ago when Amos was a child. The instrument is anembodiment of days and people that are gone now; ghosts of memories from a time and place that inspire the music of The Ghosts of Johnson City.
An archival project as much as a musical endeavor, The Ghosts of Johnson city draw their repertoire of seldom-heard traditional songs from a wide variety of historical archives, oral traditions and collective memory. This dedicated group of skilled musicians strive to tell long-forgotten stories of largely voiceless communities by adhering to tradition while also connectingon a deeply emotional level with each and every song they play. People and communities have always told their stories in song. The Ghosts of Johnson City is one of a long line of voicesseeking to remind their listeners of who and what came before, and continuing to bear witness to the shared history that has made all of us who we are.
Banjo, Lead Vocals / Amos Libby
Guitar, Vocals / Douglas Porter
Baritone Ukulele, Vocals / Erik Neilson
Harmonium / Erik Winter