As most people will tell you, there’s an undeniable connection between versatility and variation. Suffice it to say that each depends on the other. In the case of Seattle-based Marley’s Ghost, that eclectic energy has resulted in a broad repertoire that has defied any ability to tag them to any one particular genre. Their dozen albums to date — like the output of The Band — survey a broad scope of Americana and acoustic music in general, refusing to confine them to any singular niche.
“It is, and always has been, about the music,” bassist, fiddler, guitarist, singer and chief songwriter Dan Wheetman insists. “That’s what’s kept this band going for so long. It’s always been about digging a little deeper, honing our skills and celebrating the entire playing process. That drives us forward.”
With their current album, the aptly named Travelin’ Shoes, Marley’s Ghost veers towards a path that doesn’t detract from that overarched umbrella, but instead helps define it further. Produced by acclaimed virtuoso Larry Campbell (Bob Dylan, Levon Helm), who was previously behind the boards for The Woodstock Sessions, their highly acclaimed 2016 album, Travelin’ Shoes is a joyous and surprisingly diverse set of songs, a celebratory salute to the finest traditions of American music.
“Larry has a vast knowledge that spans so many genres,” Wheetman recalls. “The thing he recognized in us is our connection to the folk and roots musicians of a past generation, and he saw in us an ability to give that music contemporary credence. He knew our strengths and how to use them to the best advantage in each of the songs.”
Or, as the L.A. Weekly aptly put it, “This West Coast group deftly dashes across decades of American music to create a sound that’s steeped in tradition but never bogged down by traditionalism.”
Composed of singer/multi-instrumentalists Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr., Jerry Fletcher, and Bob Nichols, the band can sing and play anything with spot-on feel, from roots to rock, blues to bluegrass, gospel to stone country, which is what they’ve been doing – to the ongoing delight of a fervent cult that includes many of their fellow musicians – for over 30 years as a working unit. More than three decades from that initial spark, they’re still playing together with the same passion, purpose and chemistry that inspired them early on.