Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Record Review - Gillian Welch

The Harrow & the Harvest
Acony Records / Shock

David Rawlings, musical partner of country/folk enchantress Gillian Welch, was recently quoted as saying, “When is the new Gillian Welch album going to come out?  On the happiest day of my life!”  Today then, is a very happy day for Rawlings, as it is for the rest of us, as finally after an eight year wait, we have The Harrow & the Harvest, the new record from Welch, and one of the most sublime records you’ll hear all year.

Listening to The Harrow & the Harvest is like looking closely at a desert landscape; it’s so stark and sparse, and yet is so eerily beautiful that you can’t properly comprehend how it came about.  And then, amongst the simplicity, are little pockets of hidden gold which may have been obscured by shadow on the original listen, but after a bit of movement, come to the fore and shine with a lustre not seen in modern music.  For this is an album from a time long gone, made in 2011, and its simple elegance is breathtaking.

The main reasons for this lie in the vocal harmonising of Welch and Rawlings.  The instrumentation – guitar, banjo, harmonica – is merely an accompaniment to the vocalising, two voices wrapping around your brain as one making these uncomplicated songs resonate with a subtle force that belies their seeming simplicity.

Whether via the back-porch Appalachia of ‘Six White Horses’, the steady, lowdown gallop of ‘The Way It Goes’ or the country/folk tear-stained cheek of ‘The Way The Whole Thing Ends’, The Harrow & the Harvest takes you to a place you mightn’t have known existed – a place where music is real, played by real people, for real reasons.  This is why this record is so strong.  And so beautiful.

Samuel J. Fell

(published in Inpress Magazine (Melb), 13th July 2011)

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