released May 25th, 2010

from the album - The Ghost Who Walks

from all music

Model and singer/songwriter Karen Elson was born in Oldham, England to a working-class family. Though her height, pale skin, and red hair made her a prime target for teasing while she was in school, these attributes also made her an ideal model. After being spotted by a talent scout while shopping at age 16, Elson embarked on a modeling career. Stints in London and Paris were frustrating, but she found success in Tokyo, Milan, and New York by the time she was 18. Elson appeared on the covers of Vogue, Elle, and W magazines and also appeared in advertising campaigns for Burberry, Chanel, and Yves St. Laurent. While her modeling career was taking off, she also explored her passion for music, writing songs and teaching herself how to play guitar as she lived with models Maggie Rizer and Erin O’Connor. Though she had fronted a salsa band in Manchester in her teens, Elson ventured into becoming a musician slowly; in 2003, she contributed backing vocals to a remix of Robert Plant's “Last Time I Saw Her.” The following year, she founded the political cabaret troupe the Citizen’s Band with a number of artists and musicians as a response to President George W. Bush’s reelection; she sang original songs as well as covers with the group. Elson was also featured singing the song “Coming Down” on a CD accompanying the August 2005 issue of Uncut Magazine. That year, she also appeared in the Floria Sigismondi-directed video for the White Stripes' “Blue Orchid,” where she met Jack White; the couple married in June 2005 and moved to Nashville, TN. In 2006, Elson appeared on the Serge Gainsbourg tribute Monsieur Gainsbourg: Revisited, singing “I Love You (Me Either)" with Cat Power. Along with operating a vintage boutique, Venus & Mars -- The Showroom, Elson finally allowed White to hear her songs. He helped her record them, acting as producer and playing drums with a backing band that also included guitarist Jackson Smith. She also recorded a single with her garage punk outfit Mildred and the Mice in 2009, but her official solo debut, The Ghost Who Walks, arrived in May 2010.

album review

Though The Ghost Who Walks is Karen Elson's debut album, she isn’t exactly a musical newcomer — even if it might seem that way to those who know her as the model who married the White Stripes' Jack White. With previous projects ranging from the political cabaret of the Citizens’ Band to the garage punk tantrums of Mildred and the Mice, Elson has her share of musical experience, but with such wide-ranging credits, it was anyone’s guess what her own album would sound like. On The Ghost Who Walks, she runs the gamut from chilly murder ballads with British roots to Nashville twang, giving old-timey folk and modern rock the same intensity and singing of shipwrecks, stolen lovers, and storms with a beguiling mournfulness. Her voice’s dark dreaminess carries the album, especially on more stripped-down tracks like the acoustic late-summer lament “Lunasa” and the ghostly shanty “Stolen Roses.” Though the album is Elson's showcase, White produced it, and his touches are everywhere. “The Truth Is in the Dirt”’s earthy, apocalyptic feel gets added heft from sudden dynamic shifts and spooky organ and pedal steel that recall his work with the Dead Weather — and indeed, White's bandmate Jack Lawrence plays here as well, underscoring the repertory company vibe of projects White is associated with. His fondness for theatricality and Elson's cabaret roots combine on “100 Years from Now,” a lovelorn song that starts off sounding like it’s being played on a wax cylinder, then blooms into a sweeping waltz complete with theremin, and on the dust bowl ballad “Mouths to Feed.” Yet many of the album’s most striking moments are decidedly modern-sounding: “The Ghost Who Walks” — which gets its name from one of the epithets Elson was called in school because she was so pale — updates the murder ballad tradition with electric pianos that rain unearthly beauty onto the song; “A Thief at My Door” ebbs and flows, dipping into darker rock territory; and “The Last Laugh”'s gentle country-pop sounds like it could have come off a long-lost Dolly Parton album from the ‘70s. While The Ghost Who Walks occasionally feels a little long and scattered, it’s still a beautifully made album that earns Elson a place among moody songstresses such as Neko Case, Amanda Palmer, Hope Sandoval, and Paula Frazer.

Track Listing

1 The Ghost Who Walks Elson 3:02
2 The Truth Is in the Dirt Elson 3:56
3 Pretty Babies Elson, Garniez 3:25
4 Lunasa Garniez 3:55
5 100 Years from Now Bojadziev, Elson, Garniez 3:13
6 Stolen Roses Elson 3:07
7 Cruel Summer Elson 3:30
8 Garden Elson 4:21
9 The Birds They Circle Elson 3:13
10 A Thief at My Door Elson 3:45
11 The Last Laugh Elson 3:08
12 Mouths to Feed Elson, Garniez 3:48