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Album Review
A Woman A Man Walked By

A Woman A Man Walked By
by PJ Harvey and John Parish


Review Date
21st June 2009
Reviewed by
Paul Gallagher

This record is not what I expected to follow PJ Harvey's quietly disturbing last outing White Chalk. Don't get me wrong, it's good to know she's not gone soft but on this album she has turned almost full circle, retaining some of White Chalk's mood but returning to a more animalistic sound. John Parish lays the musical foundations for her to get on with getting to her unhinged best as she scuttles through lyrics with an earnest desire for wilfull damage.

The album has a fractured yet fascinating opening with 'Black Hearted Love' and 'Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen' as Parish and Harvey find their feet and negotiate the balance between his musicianship and her stubborn dominance. There are also the more subtle and raw moments - closer 'Cracks In The Canvas' and 'Leaving California' are two tracks in which the artists show that they're performance worn and comforted by life's lessons.

There are two standout tracks on this album. The centrepiece and title track of sorts, 'A Woman A Man Walked By / The Crow Knows Where All The Little Children Go' is a menacing tirade and 'Pig Will Not' in which she returns to the fractured howling and yelping of past releases. The dynamism between Parish and Harvey is obvious and they build on the relationship built on their last release from 1996, Dance Hall At Louse Point. Fourteen or so years is a long time to wait before releasing a follow-up, but in the ebbs and flows on time nothing has been lost in the sincerity of the craft these two musicians share.

With the guidance of John Parish to steady the voyage, PJ Harvey has proved that she is as relevant as ever.

Paul Gallagher

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