The First Ghost
Tyler Gordon, leader of the Columbia-based folk-rock outfit Barnwell, is remarkably earnest. He puts his convictions — economic, musical and spiritual — front and center.
The First Ghost, his debut EP, is available as a pay-what-you-want Bandcamp download with all proceeds benefitting Aaron Graves, a local musician battling brain cancer. It’s tempting, then, to compare Barnwell to Graves’ quirky-yet-profound folk-pop band Those Lavender Whales, particularly since Gordon contributed to an all-covers benefit compilation for the ailing singer earlier this year. But Barnwell owes more to two other regionally relevant songwriters — Columbia expat Austin Crane of Valley Maker and Charlotte's John Mark McMillan.
Gordon’s vocal cadence and lyrical inspirations mirror those of Crane, particularly on tracks like “Cap Too” and “Soon,” where internal rhymes build upon one another in elliptical ruminations on the personal nature of faith. McMillan, on the other hand, provides a model for Gordon’s worship-based songwriting and the cinematic sweep that pervades even his most obviously home-recorded efforts.
Gordon and collaborators Ben Cantrell and Seth Ely show real promise in their ability to leverage a minimal collection of rag-tag instruments to capture crisp and jangly songs that crescendo fearlessly toward the emotional payoffs the lyrics demand.
A few more hooks would be welcomed, and the overt religiosity might drive some away. But many others will find a spirit-affirming salve in Gordon’s humble offerings.