To cut to the chase, Rachel Harrington from Oregon is the real deal.
Comparisons to the mighty Gillian Welch tend to become odious but these are not forced or misplaced in her case. Harrington quite simply has a great country voice that grabs your attention and doesn’t let go. She makes the C&W genre a medium for her own personality rather than using it as a slick marketing tool.
You don’t need a fancy production or a big cast of musicians to make this kind of music work. A banjo, a fiddle, a pedal steel and an acoustic guitar will get the job done (percussion is notable by its absence). This instrumentation backs a voice which is a fierce holler with soul; full of strength and emotion. The crystal sharp production by Casey Neill brings all the best qualities to the fore.
It has been eight years since Harrington's equally impressive third album (Celilo Falls). She spent the time in between releases homesteading and it’s good to finally have another record by her to enthuse over.
The lengthy recording gap was primarily due to a burnout of sorts after committing to a punishing concert schedule. She admits ”I was physically exhausted and decided to take a break from touring. But once I stopped, I didn’t feel any better”. 'Hush The Wild Horses' is an album of healing.
There’s a straightforward honesty whether it is singing of her own struggle with addiction (I Meant To Go To Memphis) or, in Child Of God, angrily documenting an assault by a predatory male when she was just eight years old (“Am I just your little plaything, am I just your little doll?”).
There’s no shying away from other dark memories. With Mekong Delta she pays tribute to a Vietnam vet uncle who committed suicide while Gave It All Away is about a musician friend who overdosed.
The driving rockabilly tune of Drop Zone steers us tentatively towards brighter roads and the title track is about how falling madly in love helps calm the fears and makes life worth living.
A spirit of resilience is what ultimately shines through, not least in Get Out While You Still Can, a Miss Ohio-like number which evokes the dusty Americana spirit of The Band.
Mary Gautier once advised Harrington to “write songs only you can write” and on this exceptional record she does just that.
Rachel Harrington's website