Friday, July 15, 2011

Record of the Month

I figured I'd do a monthly 'what I'm listening to' kind of thing. This could be viewed as a lame placeholder kind of post. And probably it is. But it's my blog! So there!

Yeah, I promised a month or so ago that I'd get off the country / folk / Americana / roots train when it came to my music selections.  Apparently, I lied.

But to be fair, not much new has come out that I have even purchased - not full album form.   And unknown to me, and most people, I didn't know that Gillian Welch had a new release on the horizon.  Even her label (which she runs, so this makes no sense to me) wasn't in the loop.

The Harrow & the Harvest is her new release.   Well, their new release.  As always, Welch is joined by her (musical) partner, David Rawlings.

I'm impressed and unimpressed at the same time.  Some of the writing is good.....some of the musicianship, especially Rawlings is great.  But some of the songwriting is just so-so.

Take the music on "Scarlet Town".  The guitar work is great.  So is the singing and songwriting.  It's one of the few stand-outs on the disk.    Ditto with "The Way it Goes".....actually, this is the true highlight for me.

If you've listened to Welch and Rawlings, there is no such thing as overproduction or anything put to tape other than a few instruments in any one song.  Sometimes they even take it down a level, if possible.  I really like "Hard Times" and "The Way the Whole Thing Ends".   The former is mostly just banjo and eventually guitar.  The latter is two guitars.  That's it.  I mean, vocals too.  And that works quite well.

Is the music a little bleak?  Yeah.   Such is Americana/Appalachian music, for the most part.

Normally I really like that, but on this disk it's almost too much of a downer for me - at least in one sitting.   ....and it's not that long of a disk: 10 songs, 46 minutes.   Not a lot of music after a seven or eight year wait.

I don't think Welch or Rawlings are to blame for my sometimes dissatisfaction.  Their disk, The Relevator, was such an outstanding album - and one of my all time favourites of all time, nothing they've really done since (which hasn't been that much) has measured up.

Still it's nice to hear something (anything) from these two.  It's not your summer fare disk, but it's honest and the two have incredible talent.

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