Gillian Welch’s Latest Country Gothic Classic + Win A Pair Of Tickets To Her Madison Show

Gillian Welch

She may be of slight build, propped up by a few inches of road-worn cowboy boot, but Gillian Welch’s voice is as heavy and potent as a crate of moonshine. Her latest release, The Harrow & The Harvest, drives the point home wonderfully. It’s her first release in eight years, and already a classic.

The album starts off with “Scarlet Town,” a solemn romper about a runaway love that sounds as if it could be wafting straight out of a backwoods Tennessee holler. It’s bleak, with lyrics that are at once beautiful and intriguing. “I’ll be looking through a telescope from hell to Scarlet Town.” Its country-picked arrangement is the most intricately arranged on the album, but stays well within the limits of taste.

The Harrow & The Harvest was produced by Welch’s long-time writing partner Dave Rawlings, who in 2009 released his own solo album to much acclaim. Rawlings’ sparse production style is a perfect fit. He seems to basically throw up a microphone and let her go to town. Any more would be too much, and he is well aware of that.

Songs such as “Tennessee” and “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” also benefit from the stripped-down production, bringing the substance of the songs to the forefront and letting Gillian’s voice shine. “Tennessee” is particularly beautiful, but tinged with a deep sadness. Gillian sings of being thrown out of Sunday school and the struggle of being good in the face of temptation. There’s almost something of Leadbelly in the weight of it all.  You don’t have any choice but to believe that she means every tortured word that is squeezed from her mouth. As always, her delivery is perfect. There’s never an indulgence here. Her voice plants the words into the melody with a painter’s precision.

The album brings you along softly—trance-like—through its brand of Southern gloom. Turn it on and suddenly you find yourself in a solemn winter setting in the rural Tennessee—sweet depression sauntering over ten songs. Though the album is somber, the feeling that permeates after listening is one of pure satisfaction.

Reinventing the wheel comes to mind after hearing  The Harrow & The Harvest. It’s hard to think that a musical style steeped in so much tradition could sound so fresh, but with a talent like Gillian Welch, it seems only natural. Put her in the capable hands of Dave Rawlings and certainly anything is possible. Let’s just hope that it’s not another eight years before she presents us with another equally brilliant album.

–Ross Martin

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WIN A PAIR OF TICKETS:  Gillian Welch’s songs are filled with all sorts of characters: villains, heroes, heroines, dreamers, artists, outlaws—you name it!  We want you to pick one of your favorite players from Welch’s many musical dramas and then tell us what actor or actress you could envision playing the role out on film.  Who would make a great Miss Ohio, Caleb Meyer, or Whiskey Girl?  Tell us in the comments section below.

Post your responses by 8pm this evening (Wednesday, July 20, 2011).  A winner will be chosen and notified shortly thereafter. Good luck!

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Miss our giveaway?  You can still grab tickets to Gillian’s July 21 show at the Capitol Theatre here.

Related Content: A Beautiful Harvest: Listen To The Latest From Gillian Welch

7 Responses

  1. Kate Beckinsale as the Whiskey Girl. Now, bear with me, she does this type of role well in mediocre films. In fact, she generally pulls the films up a notch because she doesn’t play Miss Perky, she just goes about her business and, hey, she even make mistakes sometimes. She would also make a good Thursday Next if Jasper ffordes series went to film. The Nowhere Man could be a bit trickier, but Bruce Campbell could bring a bit of clueless levity toi the role.

  2. Helena Bonham Carter as the Fortune Lady in Revelator.

  3. I’ll cast a vote for Jeff Bridges as the ill-mannered southern bootlegger who can’t take no for an answer, Caleb Meyer.

  4. You got em Dave! Congrats!

  5. […] Related Content: Gillian Welch’s Latest Country Gothic Classic […]

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