Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Amazon Reviews: Gillian Welch "The Harrow and The Harvest"

Harrow of an intimate harvest
4 Out Of 5 Stars
Gillian Welch is in the rarefied realm of singer-songwriters for whom being impersonal just isn't possible. Along with singers like Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams, there's just something pure that comes across on all her records. Again with her long time musical companion Dave Rawlings, Gillian's folk music could have easily been mined from a Tennesee or West Virginia mountainside. It really is that timeless.

Surprisingly, it's been almost eight years sing her last album, 2003's "Soul Journey." Granted, she and Rawlings made his first album as headliner in 2010, "Friend of a Friend," to which Welch was singing or playing on all but a few songs. However, as they make music that reaches back into a time frame, and then catches it with something of an effortless ease, "Harrow and Harvest" hardly seems like an album that took a prolonged time to make. There are no great revelations, no indictments of the times we live in, and no sophisticated gadgetry to time-stamp the music. Just some plain playing and vocals that reach for the soul (like the highlight here, "The Way It Will Be"). Conscious or not, that 'way' informs the thought of three songs here; including "The Way it Goes" and "The Way The Whole Thing Ends."

These songs play off each other with a reluctant unfolding, like Welch is opening her most private emotional soul-bearing into the open without using theatrics or bombast to get her point across. "Six White Horses" teases out its subject with a harmonica and knee-slaps and sounds somehow joyful, until you realize that it's a funeral song. or the murder being committed in "Silver Dagger." Welch and Rawlings have done such an amazing job of painting their subjects with an abstract brush, with guitar interplay, banjos and firm harmonies that their craft lifts "The Harrow and The Harvest" into one of the best roots/folk albums of 2011.


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