Wishbone Ash – Blue Horizon (2014)

Ghosts follow bands who’ve been at it this long. For Wishbone Ash, no album goes without comparisons to Argus. No vocalist takes the mic outside of the long shadows of Martin Turner, not even Andy Powell — who, like Turner, helped found the group.

And so, Wishbone Ash emerges with a third Powell-led album featuring its current lineup, and the talk isn’t about this new age of continuity for a group that hadn’t had such a run since the 1970s. It’s about their celebrated third album, which came out in 1972. It’s about Turner, who returned again for a short-lived late-1980s reunion, but otherwise has been gone for much of the last three decades.

It’s not about the crunchy roots feel of “Deep Blues,” which finds second guitarist Muddy Manninen unleashing a series of floorboard-rearranging asides. Nor is it about the flinty Celtic flourishes on “Take It Back” and “All There is To Say” provided by fiddler Pat McManus, another figure who returns from 2011’s Elegant Stealth. Or about the long-form joys of the final two tracks on Blue Horizon, which match in grandeur and ambition anything Wishbone Ash has attempted.

Along the way, Wishbone Ash recall the cerulean beauty of early David Gilmour-era Pink Floyd and the biting introspection of Dire Straits, even while songs like “Deep Blues” and the title track traffic in Deep South influences that were — and remain — entirely unexpected in the often-classically focused genre of prog rock. There’s even an unexpected partial reunion with Roger Filgate, as the late-1990s-era ex-vocalist/guitarist stops by for the appropriately titled “Strange (How Things Come Around).”

The results on Blue Horizon add up to one of the more complex and layered offerings in the Wishbone Ash catalog, and another reason to approach Powell’s hard-working edition of the band on its own terms.

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Nick DeRiso

Over a 30-year career, Nick DeRiso has also explored music for USA Today, All About Jazz, Ultimate Classic Rock and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the nation by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Contact him at nderiso@somethingelsereviews.com.