Seattle-based Paul Hiraga was so inspired by the story of his Japanese-American father’s wartime internment on the California-Nevada border that he built his album (his first for 4 years) around reflections on the past as he revisited the Old West to consider some of the less familiar stories there. ‘Day of the Long Sun’ is the internment camp story, a dusty desert tale full of jangly guitars, while ‘My Paper Sons’ describes Chinese labourers forging citizenship papers after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. The latter is evocative and atmospheric, though unnecessarily stretched out to way over 5 minutes. ‘Hallowed Ground’ has a quiet buildup and sighing violin but with sufficient tearjerking emotion to water the parched ground it recreates.
The music has a rootsy Californian feel, full of chiming guitars and sweet melodic touches, though there’s a lack of variety and a similar pace through most of the record. That’s why the bookends stand out: there’s a little Buffalo Springfield and even more Crowded House in the hook-crammed album opener ‘Radio Ghost’, the liveliest song here, while album closer ‘Suzanne (The Silence)’ is melodic, multi-layered and mildly trippy. Hiraga recorded the bulk of the record himself, on mainly analogue instruments, which gives a satisfyingly authentic sound but the songs themselves don’t have a similar effect.