Quick Review (LP): The Harrow & The Harvest by Gillian Welch

Gillian Welch
The Harrow & The Harvest
2011

My Rating: B (68/100)

Best Tracks: "Dark Turn of Mind", "The Way It Will Be", "Hard Times", "Silver Dagger", "The Way The Whole Thing Ends"

No longer an orphan. On her 5th album, GW sounds right at home.

TRACK NOTES

"Scarlet Town"

  • Fairly typical GW.
  • Rawlings sounds like an Appalachian Hendrix on his little acoustic.
  • Recalls "Caleb Meyer" a bit.
  • Has a dark feel, something almost Native American about it.

"Dark Turn of Mind"

  • This one reminds me of "Dear Someone" off of The Revelator. Not a bad thing.
  • Gorgeous, this one.

"The Way It Will Be"

  • Dig this one.
  • Sounds a bit Low-ish, tense, hushed, dejected, ya know?
  • Some of the lyrics hit in a really visceral way. The way they sing "Gatling Gun" does it.
  • Love the dual-melodic vox. Nice touch.

"The Way That It Goes"

  • Sing songy in feel, depressing in content.

"Tennessee"

  • I always get the line "It’s beefsteak when I’m working/Whiskey when I’m dry" stuck in my head.

"Down Along The Dixie Line"

  • Pretty, slow, standard.
  • A bit reminiscent of the stuff off of Soul Journey.

"Six White Horses"

  • Hey, a harmonica. That’s different.

"Hard Times"

  • One of her best. Truly beautiful, truly harrowing.
  • A must hear. Might just make you tear up.
  • "Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind…"
  • "Said it’s a big ol’ world/Heavy and mean/That big ol’ machine/Is a-pickin’ up speed"
  • This one really hits home on a personal level.

"Silver Dagger"

  • This one’s strong, if not stellar.
  • "The great destroyer’s in every man…"

"The Way The Whole Thing Ends"

  • Nice way to end the record. Kinda dreamy, almost like a lullabye.

ALBUM NOTES

  • Well hmmm…8 years later and that’s the way that it goes. Same as it ever was.
  • A few new-ish moments – "The Way It Will Be" and "Hard Times" are both great.
  • Overall though, what separates this from what she’s done in the past? Not much. Maybe it’s a grower?
  • Maybe, with the title and all (the image of plowing the field and the subsequent harvest), Welch is making a realist statement here? Maybe that’s the concept?
  • I can tell there will be times with this record that I will really love it, and others when I will pretty much forget about it.
  • With a few exceptions, this is par-for-the-course Gillian. She won’t win any converts here, but fans will find plenty to enjoy. I do find it disappointing that she didn’t emerge 8 years later with something a little more revolutionary, a changeup of some sort. But perhaps to do so would have been to confirm the worst sentiments of her critics? If she proves anything with this release, she proves that the music she makes is anything but an act. These are songs that she patiently cares for until they are ready for harvest, and she ain’t nothing but a sonic farmer girl, pure and simple. In hindsight, I sorta like that.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4.5/5)
Concept (4.5/5)
Consequence (4/5)
Consistency (4.5/5)
Songs (4/5)

Quick Review (LP): Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams
Heartbreaker
Bloodshot; 2000

My Rating: B (70/100)

Best Tracks: “To Be Young”, “Shakedown on 9th Street”, “In My Time of Need”


Scattered and inflated debut from an immense talent.

NOTES

  • “To Be Young” is fantastic. It sounds like a missing cut from Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home. Nice falsetto.
  • “Come Pick Me Up” – I remember what it was like to be 16, but dang, how bout some perspective?
  • The production on “Winding Wheel” is awful.
  • A heartfelt “YES!” to everything about “In My Time Of Need.” What a beautiful song. More like this please.
  • Look, I get why so many people think this album is a classic, but the bottom line is that it is not only uneven, it is a technical train wreck of epic proportions. There are some great songs, but there’s also a lot of pretentious drivel that gets passed off as poetic flare. The rule of thumb with Radams 50 percent great and 50 percent garbage. He’s been improving on that ratio lately, but it’s more like 25/75 here.
  • Maybe I’m just approaching it from the perspective of someone who’s gotten to know Adams’ subsequent output, but this just comes off like a set demos that could have been pulled together with other sessions to form a really great debut.
  • The Pitchfork review, while surely a boon to Adams’ career trajectory, is hyperbolic and inflated.

ATTRIBUTES
Cohesion (4/5)
Concept (5/5)
Consistency (3.5/5)
Consequence (5/5)
Songs (4/5)