READERS PICK: JUNE 2011
Twangville readers picked Gillian Welch‘s The Harrow & The Harvest as their favorite album of June 2011.
A harrow is a heavy, machine-size rake that drags over plowed land to remove weeds and break up lumps of earth and clay. There’s no doubt careful thought was put into the title of the first album in 8 years from Gillian Welch and long-time compadre, David Rawlings. The two allegedly produced two or three albums worth of songs since 2003′s Soul Journey but weren’t happy with what they’re results. Thus when they finally settled on The Harrow & The Harvest, a bounty of 10 new songs emerged for us to feast on. I’d say it was worth the wait.
With The Harrow & The Harvest, Welch and Rawlings stay true to form. Images of dust bowl era struggles still emerge with each track. There’s nothing uplifting about these songs. If anything the pain of each track serves to let the music be the elixir to conquer the sadness and distress painted in each song. For example, “Tennessee” tells the story of a girl who despite her best efforts to follow the straight and narrow is drawn to darker pursuits with lyrics like: “Even so I try to be a good girl / It’s only what I want that makes me weak / I had no desire to be a child of sin / Then you went and pressed your whiskers to my cheek”. “The Way It Goes” highlights the perfect accompaniment with David Rawlings furiously picking away in precise vocal harmony with Welch while she strums her way through another perfectly haunting tale.
The Harrow & The Harvest is further proof that Gillian Welch is the John Steinbeck of American folk music. When it comes to illustrating the present in pictures of the past few living singer-songwriters come close. Through tough tales we’re all softened a little and better off for knowing life’s sordid affairs so that we may learn to navigate the most treacherous of them. While we enjoy this gift for some time let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 8 years.
Standouts: The Way It Goes, Tennessee
- Tom Osborne
For more, see what Twangville authors Eli, Jeff, and Shawn had to say about The Harrow & The Harvest.
About the author: Washington, D.C. area web designer by day. Certifiable music freak by night. Husband and father of two by the loving grace of God.