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Album Review
The Harrow and The Harvest

The Harrow and The Harvest
by Gillian Welch

Acony Records

Review Date
22nd September 2011
Reviewed by
Ivy Rossiter

Finding a hot, humid space to stretch out with a whiskey-soda may be a tall order at this time of year, but the languid strains of Gillian Welch’s new album “The Harrow And The Harvest” will be relaxing limbs and minds across the world the same way the beating summer sun would.

Folk-newcomers and established artists the world over cite Gillian Welch as an influence, and with good reason. Her voice is unmistakable, and her style exudes conviction and honesty without disconcerting earnestness. “The Harrow And The Harvest” is her first record under her own name in eight years, and is a return to the musical asceticism of her 2001 album “Time The Revelator”: Welch relies only on her own her guitar or banjo, combined with those of her long-time collaborator David Rawlings, to support her vocals throughout this entire album. The closest she comes to percussion is her own handclaps throughout “Six White Horses”. Occasionally a guitar solo seems superfluous when compared to Welch's own sung melodies, but overall this is a record of restraint, of hold and release. “Hard Times” is tragedy without melodrama; “Dark Turn Of The Mind” is reflection without nostalgia. Welch’s songs hang together like traditional folk songs, touching parts of your mind so deeply that the tunes seem familiar on the very first listen.

This is an album solidly rooted in an Americana tradition. Comparing it with any number of the folk-hybrid acts that abound would be an exercise in futility. There is no innovation here, no changing the rules, no novelty or revolution to be found. Instead, this is a collection of fine, strong songs, performed with pathos and conviction by a woman with one of the most recognizable and strong voices in music today, and as such, on it’s own, it is a work of great beauty.


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