mon 26/07/2021

CD: Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest

CD: Gillian Welch - The Harrow and the Harvest

It has been eight years since Gillian Welch last released an album and her loyal fans – not to mention critics - have been waiting with bated breath. Will she have spent the years honing the delicious Americana and Appalachian-influenced folk that once set her and musical partner David Rawlings apart? Or will she have kept the hit-and-miss drums, the electric guitar and the chirpier outlook of her last album Soul Journey? Thankfully, the answer is the former: The Harrow and the Harvest might well be her best record yet.

Welch and Rawlings have pared down their sound to produce a purity of voice and tone which is languidly beautiful. Having somehow avoided the dangers of ornamentation and overworking which artists who produce records over a long period of time sometimes risk, The Harrow and the Harvest is a crop of 10 songs which have sprung from the soil beautifully formed.

“Tennessee”, “Dark Turn of Mind” and “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” are in the mould of traditional folk songs. With that familiarity of subject matter and resonance of combined understanding, they sound as if they have been passed down by generations. But the moribund storytelling style unique to Welch is still present, softened by time and smoothed over by the plinky plonk of guitar and rich harmonising.

The new album is better than Time (The Revelator), melding clear narratives which could be likened to the songs of James Taylor with the quiet passion of Jolie Holland. The sparse instrumentation is sometimes interrupted by a burst of harmonica. The stories it tells are of the stuff of life: relationships, children, weeping women. Like the musical arrangements, the subject matter is subtler and less melodramatic than Welch’s former work and, as a result, gut-grabbingly potent.

A stunning piece of work. And if eight years is the gestation period for Welch’s next offering then I’m looking forward to 2019.

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