Portugal is the oldest country in present-day Europe, they say: founded in 1128 with its borders largely unchanged since the end of the “reconquista” in 1249, from the Minho Province to the Algarve. Long before that, the Romans called it Lusitania, as before them it was home to several Celtic tribes, with central Portugal being home to one of the main tribes who fought the Romans, the Lusitanians.
Music has strong roots in Portugal, long before Fado was invented: Arabic influences are felt to this day. It is a country rich in a wide regional variety of cordophones and other instruments on the verge of extinction. These, we very affectionately call the Lusitanian Ghosts.
Pictured on Lusitanian Ghosts’ first promo photo is a modern-day Viola Beiroa, with its drone double D string called “requinta”, made by Braga town luthier company APC Instruments. APC is one of a few companies keeping these old cordophones from extinction by making a whole new generation of Beiroas, Amarantinas, Toeiras, Campaniças, Braguesas and other guitars, each with its own particular tuning and in several variations of 8, 10, 12 and 15 strings.
Portuguese-Canadian indie-rock artist Neil Leyton, returned to Portugal in 2008 and has spent the better part of the last decade getting to know the Portuguese music industry after living in Canada, UK and Sweden; and he now presents us with a new album, the debut from Lusitanian Ghosts.
Drawing on several local as well as international musicians of several aesthetics, it is a rock n roll singer-songwriter record where we find Leyton and his merry men and women immersed in a no-rules approach to musical exploration, anchored in rock n roll but showcasing to the world what these old Portuguese guitars sound like, not necessarily played by “proper musicians”, as Leyton considers himself primarily a singer – although he surrounds himself with some great friends on the album:
Micke Ghost – Swedish guitar player, who accompanied Leyton on his “Betrayal of the Self” album and tour between 2005-2008. Leyton bought him an APC Amarantina back in 2016 and the first song Micke played on it was “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”;
Vasco Ribeiro Casais – Multi-instrumentalist (ex-Dazkarieh, Seiva, Omiri projects);
Guillermo de Llera – Founder of Primitive Reason, The High Djinn, Mokscha Burning, Red Shield and other projects;
Abel Beja – Primitive Reason guitarist & guitar teacher, master of his Terceira;
O Gajo – master of the Campaniça
João Sousa aka Johnny Dynamite – Drummer with Murdering Tripping Blues and many others.
The first song released by the project, back in 2015, was the single “Blossom”, recorded by Leyton in the town of Setúbal with remote contributions from Sweden courtesy of Micke Ghost; the track also features Leyton’s grandfather’s old Cavaquinho:
It took a couple more years for Leyton to write the remaining material that will make up their debut album, with production underway with the precious collaboration of Portuguese hit-making producer Ricardo Ferreira of Blim Records Studios (Aurea, Ana Stilwell, Lionskin and others) and sound engineer / mixed Nelson Canoa.