Rachel Harrington - Celilo Falls

by Dan Clay Rating:7 Release Date:2010-11-22

Setting your stall out early on a record is no bad thing. So when bluegrass-loving Rachel Harrington chimes "I ain't about to spoil a good drink with a meal", a few bars in on the opening song of her third album it's clear we're in for a good time.

Coming after 2008's well-received City of Refuge, Harrington describes this new release as an album about "what lies beneath". Based on the idea that the now buried waterfalls dividing Oregan and Washington from which the album takes its name can still flow, Harrington delivers a set of songs about love, loss and soul.

Describing herself as a short-story writer, where the story always comes first, these 13 tales fit neatly onto one record. The sparse, bluegrass sound evokes images of worn guitars, wooden porches and passion within. Whether it's the slow ballad harmonies of 'Here in My Bed' or the drinking-shanty sound of settling for love on 'You'll Do', it's clear Harrington is turning stories into songs.

Unafraid to let her voice do the talking, rather than lush instrumentals, 'Pretty Saro' treats us to a simple acapella arrangement while closer 'The Last Jubilee' whistles its way towards a sweet conclusion. Of the rest, the heartfelt and tender 'Bury Me Close', about Harrington's grandmother, rings the truest note as the strings soar and stir on the album's most poignant and memorable song.

With a voice like Eva Cassidy, perhaps Harrington might break from the bluegrass/country niche and reach a wider audience. Then again, perhaps these tales aren't meant to be shouted wide, but whispered near.

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