Gillian Welch: The Harrow & the Harvest  

Acony

Only a misanthrope could deny the beauty of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings' songwriting dynamic, the close harmonies, the way each (curiously similar) voice remains indivisible from the other. And there's nothing else quite like Welch's music, so the best way to assess it is to compare it against itself. It's been eight years since Welch last released an LP (Soul Journey), but The Harrow & the Harvest is more musically akin to 2001's Time (The Revelator). Harrow lacks that record's thematic muscle, but it's a similarly nimble mix of bluegrass twang and ghostly, slow-burn acoustica. It stings - "The Way it Goes" and "The Way it Will Be" are wrenching - but it also soothes, with a spirituality that Welch convincingly wields. "Hard times ain't gonna rule my mind no more," she declares. I'm inclined to believe it. (4 out of 5 stars)

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