Charlie Hall's Invisible Ink brings collaborative musical magic to Solar Myth - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

Charlie Hall’s debut album Invisible Ink, released last year, welcomed listeners into an ethereal sonic experience, full of lush and spacey instrumental tracks that straddled various genres. Hall has said he never expected to make a solo album, but the project wasn’t a total left turn for the tirelessly creative and lovably unpredictable multi-instrumentalist.

Hall may be best known as the drummer for the Philly rock group The War on Drugs; he’s supplied the band’s punchy backbeat since the mid 2000’s. Other fans cherish his work as the mastermind behind both Philly Special Christmas albums, which feature Eagles players singing holiday classics. He’s also played with Tommy Guerrero and Jens Lekman, spearheaded live tribute shows honoring the works of Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, and leads the 16-person choir known as Silver Ages.

Hall seems to live and breathe music, especially smooth and soulful 70’s classics. You can really hear that on Invisible Ink, a gorgeous, laid-back record reflecting his various passions and musical community. Many of the tracks sound like ultra-chill indie-rock, stripped of the the vocals of a Kurt Vile or Adam Granduciel. Others songs have a distinctly cinematic tone and could easily score an emotionally ambiguous drama.

Charlie Hall’s Invisible Ink | photo by Dylan Itkin for WXPN

Make no mistake, Hall is certainly a showman. But on the second night of two sold-out performances at Solar Myth, he proved more than willing to share the stage. Last year, he told Magnet Magazine that Invisible Ink was “an exercise in generosity and love” and that was readily apparent during the entrancing concert. Onstage, he was joined by fellow War on Drugs members (bassist Dave Hartley, keyboardist Robbie Bennett, pedal steel player Anthony LaMarca) and several other spectacular musicians (drummer Nazir Ebo, keyboardist Corey Bernhard, percussionist Daniel Villarreal, and multi-talented vocalist Rosali).

As frontman, Hall was casual and often comical, cracking jokes about his very serious reluctance to discover the results of the night’s ongoing Celtics game; his son eventually shouted out the score. The beloved drummer likely surprised many by playing only guitar throughout the show but the group’s rhythm section couldn’t have been stronger. The local legend Ebo has become a jazz star while playing with greats like Joshua Redman and his skills really shined through in this totally different musical setting. Playing a stripped down and spectacular sounding kit, his perfect pocket grounded the group while Hartley peppered the dreamy soundscapes with low-end melodies.

Charlie Hall’s Invisible Ink | photo by Dylan Itkin for WXPN

In between songs, Hall interjected to share the inspirations for his songs, which stem from experiences in Maine and Connecticut. Keeping with the night’s familial spirit, he reminisced about the joy of watching one of his sons teach the other to ride a bike. The music was deeply textured yet never overly busy, sometimes euphoric and sometimes melancholy. Hall took the mic for the night’s final song: a cover of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Didn’t Have To Do It.” He explained his obsession with the track stems from a recent flight from India. At Solar Myth, Hall and his crew stretched the song out, creating a spacey six-minute saga full of floating keyboard melodies and yearning pedal steel. It was a fitting finale for a night of collaborative musical magic.

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