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Rachel Harrington - Hush the Wild Horses

  by Malcolm Carter

published: 24 / 2 / 2020

Rachel Harrington - Hush the Wild Horses
Label: Skinny Dennis
Format: CD


Rachel Harrington returns after an eight year absence with her best and most honest album to date

It’s been almost eight years since we last had a new set of songs from the Oregon singer/songwriter, and a lot has happened to Rachel Harrington during that time. A lot of the events have helped shaped the eleven original songs on ‘Hush the Wild Horses’. Never an artist to shy away from honesty, this set of songs must rank as Rachel’s most personal confessions to date. The opening and title track feels like it maybe should have closed the album; it appears to be affirmation that after all her troubles Rachel has finally found some peace in the form of a new love. “You laid down in my bed and you hushed the wild horses in my head,” declares Rachel while the fiddle and acoustic guitar which gently open the song show that Rachel hasn’t deserted her country roots. It doesn’t prepare the listener for the chilling second song, ‘Child of God’. With hues of both blues and gospel driven by banjo and handclaps, it reveals the horror that Rachel went through aged just eight when she was sexually assaulted. Although lyrically it might be uncomfortable listening to some. it will surely lend strength to just as many of those unfortunate enough to have to experience such horrors. Despite the detailed and harrowing lyrics, the arrangement of the song is addictive and one that demands repeated playing. Rachel deserves praise for having the courage to not only write this song but to place it on this album. Even though the following ‘I Meant to Go to Memphis’ has a gentle melody highlighted with fingerpicking acoustic, the lyrical content is still honest and unsettling - “I meant to go to Memphis, but first I found cocaine/She was waiting like a lost friend in the rain.” With haunting backing vocals from Shelley Short, it’s another harrowing tale about addictions that the listener will find compelling due to its honesty, affecting vocals and melody. All of the eleven songs could be singled out for special attention such is the quality of the writing and performance of these songs. Following on from ‘I Meant to Go to Memphis’ is ‘The Barn’, a song about Rachel’s mother’s high school love who was killed during service in Vietnam. Again, the melody is at odds with the sad tale. The emotion in Rachel’s voice is real. Like the rest of the album the listener feels that Rachel’s soul is in each and every word here. ‘Mekong Delta’ also address the Vietnam War. During the period Rachel spent sleeping at her grandmother’s house while her grandmother was in hospital, Rachel slept in her uncle’s bed thinking about him and how war affects us all; he committed suicide after returning from the war. Again, a pretty tune at odds with such sad feelings. ‘Susanna’ is Rachel’s tribute to one of her heroes, the late, great Guy Clark. Susanna was Clark’s wife who passed a few years before Clark. The song is the only co-write on the album with Mandolin Hooper, and again Shelley Short provides stunning backing vocals. There are some nice touches from the backing vocalists spread throughout the album. Laura Veirs also features on a couple of tracks. Rachel Harrington has always had a talent for setting little stories to compelling tunes but by taking an enforced break from music due to health issues which ultimately led to her going back home again in some ways, spending time around horses, feeling at one again with nature and finding new love all led to this new collection of songs. Which just so happens to be the most varied yet cohesive set of songs this writer has heard from Rachel to date. We can only hope that the coming years are kinder to Rachel, but the fact is the difficult times she’s experienced have provided her with her best album to date.

Track Listing:-
1 Hush the Wild Horses
2 Child of God
3 I Meant to Go to Memphis
4 The Barn
5 Drinking About You
6 Drop Zone
7 Susanna
8 Save Yourself
9 Mekong Delta
10 Get out While You Still Can
11 If Wishes Were Horses

Have a Listen:-

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Celilo Falls (2011)
Subtly wistful and intimate third album from Pentecostal-raised and Oregon-based singer-songwriter Rachel Harrington, whose family history provides the backdrop to many of her songs
City of Refuge (2008)

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