This Rhode Island band plays despairing songs at crippled-spirit speed, in stridently antique tones: long sighs of pump organ; the soprano warble of a bowed saw; the rusted-Leonard Cohen whisper of singer-songwriter Ben Knox Miller. Smart Flesh is also magnificent sadness. The Low Anthem render the ghosts and damaged souls in these songs with delicate precision — the swirling pedal steel guitar in “Apothecary Love,” the pregnant spaces and sternly strummed banjo in “I’ll Take Out Your Ashes” — steeped in echo. It’s as if the Band stripped their prairie-gothic majesty down to Tom Waits’ early barfly essentials. There are few happy endings here, but the wounded have plenty of room to roam and waltz.
Listen to “Ghost Woman Blues”: