“The Harrow and the Harvest” by Gillian Welch

Some girls are as bright as the morning,
Some girls are blessed with a dark turn of mind.
                 “Dark Turn of Mind”
                  Gillian Welch

This is the first time that I have devoted an entry to a musical album rather than to a book. No apologies, since “The Harrow and the Harvest” is very much an album of music for people who can appreciate literature. Each song tells a story, and the lyrics of these songs will resonate in your mind for a long time. This is Americana music or folk music at its best.

It has been eight long years since the last Gillian Welch album, and “The Harrow and the Harvest” is well worth the long wait; it very well could be her best album ever. Gillian Welch is in incredible voice on this album, and sings as she always does, like someone from the southern Dust Bowl region of the United States during the Great Depression eighty years ago. The guitar interplay between Gillian and long-time musical partner Dave Rawlings provides a subtle background for the vocals.  The arrangements are poignant and simple.

Early on in her career, I read some criticism of Welch to the effect of how could this California girl whose adoptive parents wrote music for the Carol Burnett show sound so ruggedly early American? During her career Gillian Welch has proven to be an authentic voice, as recognizable in her approach to a song as Johnny Cash.

I am amazed that one person could have written all these excellent songs. I keep looking for some other writer to have written a few of these songs, but they were all written by Gillian Welch.

Fa la la la
Fa la la lee
Now let me go, my honey oh
Back to Tennessee
It’s beef steak when I’m working
Whiskey when I’m dry
Sweet heaven when I die,
              Gillian Welch

I have never seen a Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings concert live, but I’ve heard it is an incredible experience. Even from You Tube, I can tell that it is inspiring to see these two perform their songs together. I believe Dave Rawlings produces all the albums, so he is integral to their music.

I don’t want to over-praise “The Harrow and the Harvest”, but with the release of this album the twenty-first century is now complete.

Now if only Iris Dement would also release a new album.

One response to this post.

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