Less is more on the self-titled debut EP from Rural Ghosts, a one-man project created by singer/songwriter Erik Neilson.

A lo-fi indie folk affair, “Rural Ghosts” is a collection of sparsely arranged ballads, most of which consist of just Neilson’s voice accompanied by acoustic guitar. Linking the five tracks are the sounds of wind, water and wooden creaks, giving the listener the sensation of being on a slow, contemplative journey drifting down the Allagash River.

Regret and loss are the dominant themes on the EP. A mournful wind and the opening of a squeaky door are the first sounds one hears on the opening title track, as Neilson sings plaintively of being followed by creeping memories down dimly lit wooded paths and by docks on crumbling piers.

“Bright Side” laments a failed relationship, but takes comfort in the fact that soon the ex-lover will “only be a dream.” The final 30 seconds of the track are an intriguing “song-within-a-song,” where Neilson drowns his voice in reverb and echo, as if lost in a thick fog at sea. It’s a tantalizing hint at directions still uncharted for Rural Ghosts, and it will be interesting to see what develops should Neilson decide to experiment with fuller arrangements in the future.

A bit of traditional country seeps into “When I Dream It,” and its simple but effective chorus “I still care about you” will stay with the listener long after the EP is over. The sound of roaring wind rises once again as a fitting intro to the closing song “Stranger in the Dark,” a haunting exploration of the distances that can sometimes separate two people even as they share the same bed.

“Rural Ghosts” is definitely a rainy-day record, a perfect choice for a quiet and cloudy Sunday morning or a lonely late night by the fire. Perhaps the best description comes courtesy of Neilson himself, who describes the EP on his Facebook page as “sparse ballads of death, love and regret, set against the mysterious ambiance of Maine’s north woods.”

Take a walk in those woods, and let Rural Ghosts haunt your dreams.

Rick Johnson is a freelance writer and radio host from Westbrook. He can be reached at:

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