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Rachel Harrington - City of Refuge

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 23 / 8 / 2008

Rachel Harrington - City of Refuge
Label: Skinny Dennis
Format: CD


Excellent second album from Oregon-raised singer-songwriter Rachel Harrington, who, taking her influences from the old-time country songs of the Depression, shows that she has the voice and the talent to recreate the sound and feeling of long-forgotten times and records

Following on from her 2007 debut ‘The Bootlegger’s Daughter’ Oregon-raised Rachel Harrington backs up the rave reviews that album claimed (Bob Harris called it “a brilliant debut…I am absolutely enchanted”) with a collection of ten new songs of which only three are non-originals. It’s a brilliant example of old-time country mixing in a little folk and bluegrass and sounding like it’s the real thing; you’ll feel like you are listening to a collection of songs cut in the Depression era. A number of factors add up to make this sound, in fact, before you’ve even played the album you’ll be in no doubt as to how Rachel Harrington will sound, or should sound. The sepia-tinged cover depicts days of yore and even the recent photographs of Rachel look like she belongs in a world that existed 80 odd years ago. Tim O’Brien, whose fiddle is all over this album, is another reason the songs sound authentic and the guitjo (a six-stringed banjo with the neck of a guitar apparently which sounds like…a banjo) superbly played here by Zak Borden and Rachel really puts one in no doubt as to where Rachel is coming from. Although Rachel is definitely a step ahead of the others trying to drag a genre that is, for the most part, neglected in these times, Gillian Welch is probably the nearest comparison one can make to her. That’s no bad thing of course. Rachel, on this album at least, seems more determined than Welch to not let any other genre intrude in her vision. She is making music that belongs to another time and place. On songs like ‘Carver’ the purity in Harrington’s vocals really shines. With O’Brien’s weeping fiddle accentuating the innocence in her voice it is a highlight of the album. There’s a particularly fine version of Bobbie Gentry’s ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ which adds a certain menace to the song that the original lacked and while Rachel’s vocals never lose that innocence on this song they take on a tougher stance. Rachel injects a harder attitude into her voice on it; although those angelic tones are still there they are hovering over her rather than emitting from her. It’s a laid-back Sunday morning collection of story-songs that Rachel has put down for her second album and the best I’ve heard in its field for many a year. Like all good storytellers she has the ability to draw you into her songs so that you feel you know the characters she sings about and you feel you inhabit their world for their duration. Rachel has the tunes, the voice and the talent to recreate the sound and feeling of long-forgotten times and records. It takes a few plays to really appreciate the beauty in her work but stick with it and you will be surprised, as I was, at just how many times you return to this album.

Track Listing:-
1 Karen Kane
2 A Housewife's Lament
3 Old Time Religion / Working On a Building
4 Truman
5 Carver
6 Angel Boy
7 The Clearcut
8 Ode to Billy Joe
9 I Don't Want to Get Adjusted to This World
10 Under the Big Top

Have a Listen:-

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