Hailing from the windswept desert of Tucson, AZ, Sweet Ghosts is a new alternative Americana band led by Ryan Alfred and Katherine Byrnes. At once familiar and mysteriously unique, they combine “stunning, unpredictable harmonies” (Tucson Weekly) with a colorful instrumental palette where acoustic folk instruments blend with orchestral touches and subtle Brian Eno-inspired synthesizers, with songs that “sound like late afternoon...when winter's coming” (MySpiltMilk.com).
Ryan and Katherine are both quite seasoned musicians in their own right. Ryan plays upright bass in Calexico, and has road managed bands as varied as Iron and Wine, Nada Surf, and The Jayhawks. Katherine has enjoyed a strong solo career that's taken to her China and back as the leader of The University of Arizona big band, as well as a stint as a background singer for Americana star Amos Lee.
“The two have crafted a sound that smartly nods to their previous work without relying on it”, says the Midland Reporter-Telegraph, which is fitting because their debut album “Certain Truths” was recorded over a period of 2 years during breaks from Katherine and Ryan's heavy touring commitments with those bands. The album was recorded in pieces at the famed Wavelab Studios, and mixed by Ryan at the studio that he shares with Calexico.
“Certain Truths” is rooted in classic songwriting, and painted lushly with ethereal ambience. “Detroit” is a series of dream-like scenes from that city, the lyrics floating on a wash of subtle, murky synthesizer, with banjo and upright bass pushing the rhythm forward to a climax of echoing hallelujahs. “Not Quite December” is a lush meditation on the seasons of a relationship, the 2 voices almost whispered in harmony over delicate guitar and piano. “Finally Come Home”, the live show's closer, is a sprawling, dynamic piece that showcases the virtuoso violin work of Benjamin Nisbet (Tucson Symphony Orchestra). An angry song that muses on the aftereffects of the financial crash of 2008, it grows from an eerie quiet to a sweeping bridge, and finally a furious ending.
The band is now touring to support their “gloriously heart-wrenching debut” (Zocalo Magazine), having completed a 10 city tour with stops in New Orleans, Austin, and Las Cruces, where they opened for AJ Croce. They'll be back on the road again in August 2014, headed to Seattle and back by way of the California coast.