It is easy to dismiss Americana as a musical genre for it is too often a catchall term for singer songwriters wishing to hide the fact that they are singer songwriters. Then again, there are times when you find a performer who not just fits but also seems to define the genre. With her third album “Celilo Falls”, Rachel Harrington shows us her true calibre.
“Celilo Falls” is a moving album. That black and white photograph on the cover sets the scene effectively. Perhaps it is no surprise to find an artist in this genre looking backwards for inspiration but the distinguishing factor here is the unforced humanity that is to be found in Ms Harrington’s words. It is too easy to overdose on sentiment but Ms Harrington turns the heat down and instead goes for a remarkably effective mix of melancholy and regret. “House of Cards” and the a capella “Pretty Saro” stand out here and I would think an effective comparison could be made to prime time Nancy Griffiths (no higher compliment in my book!). It’s not all downbeat though and there was a wry smile to be found in “You’ll Do” that had me thinking of the song as a counterpoint to Lee Patterson’s “You’ll Dae”. The most touching of the songs, however, was “Bury Me Close” which, for such a simple and short song, packed quite an emotional punch.
There is an undercurrent of emotion running barely beneath the surface of this album that hasn’t been over sweetened with sentimentality and that is what makes this album truly special. Ms Harrington’s understated approach greatly enhances the remarkable humanity now evidenced in her songs and, yes, her aim is true.
Bluesbunny Album of the Month for December 2010.