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Marley's Ghost brings haunting harmonies to Bakersfield

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marley's ghost

Marley's Ghost, from left: Ed Littlefield Jr., Jerry Fletcher, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Bob Nichols, Dan Wheetman.

Some people are suckers for harmony. I’m one. Two-part, four-part, 96-part.

There is nothing more thrilling than human voices blending together. It’s heaven sent and heaven bound.

If you, too, love great harmonies, YouTube “Lay Down Your Weary Tune” by Marley’s Ghost, the harmony-centric band scheduled to play at the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame at 6:30 p.m. Friday. It will make your hair stand up and if you don’t have hair, it will help you grow some.

Marley’s Ghost has been compared to the Band for its rootsy, Americana, bluegrass, rock, stone country and bluesy feel. They would be unstumpable in the request portion of a concert setting. Their repertoire runs deep, deep and deeper.

The group — which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary — consists of singer/multi- instrumentalists Dan Wheetman, Jon Wilcox, Mike Phelan, Ed Littlefield Jr. and Jerry Fletcher. Like the Band and the Grateful Dead, on a much smaller scale, the group has one of those cult followings that comes out of the musical woodwork to see its live shows.

Their latest album, “Jubilee,” was produced by Nashville producer Cowboy Jack Clement at the Sound Emporium and features guest performances by Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Old Crow Medicine Show, Marty Stuart and Larry Campbell.

Marley’s Ghost played in Bakersfield 10 years ago, according to band member Dan Wheetman, who answered the following questions via email.

You've been compared to The Band. Is there a more apt description?

Wheetman: “We play a lot of roots music and feature vocal harmonies and each play several instruments. Our music has a lot of country (think Hank Williams, Ernest Tubb, Merle Haggard) and old-time fiddle, banjo and mandolin music like the Skillet Lickers and Jimmy Rodgers with a good dose of black gospel like the Golden Gate Quartet, a capella singing and a healthy portion of rural blues with a bit of Bob Wills for good measure. We also play some reggae.”

How do you stay fresh as a group?

Wheetman: “We don't tour 200 days a year like some bands (closer to a third of that) and we are always bringing new songs and new arrangements to the set.”

Are you Buck and Merle fans or do your tastes run elsewhere?

Wheetman: “HUGE fans, we all grew up on them.”

Music categories — country, American, folk, rock — have sort of collapsed. If so, do you think that is a good thing?

Wheetman: “I don't listen to radio much. What I think of as country music isn't on country stations anymore. I think pop music tends to search for artists they can sell in an environment they control. I don't disparage anyone's success, but I don't have to buy it. Art suffers, I think, when the road gets too narrow.”

— Herb Benham is a partner in Passing Through Productions, which is hosting Marley’s Ghost

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