In this modern day music world the oft used comment about the struggle to create the sophomore release holds little water with me as artists seem to take an age to get there thus rendering the excuse just that …. an excuse.
However there are still some musicians doing things the old fashioned way, the hard way. Getting out there and gigging night after night, month after month. Giving 100% every time whether there be 1000 in the audience or little more than a handful. Eager to please their expanding fan base, every spare minute is taken writing new material. Having new product to sell at these shows is paramount to their survival and also gives the follower a feeling of being part of the journey. One such artist is Rachel Harrington.
Don’t get me wrong “City of Refuge” is a decent enough follow up to “The Bootleggers Daughter”. You just get the feeling that with a little more time it could have been even better than that debut. Songs like ‘Karen Kane’, ‘Old Time Religion/Working On A Building’ with its great clarinet, background vocals and jazz feel, ‘Truman’, ‘I Don’t Want To Get Adjusted To This World’, and the superb album highlight, a reworking of the Bobbie Gentry hit ‘Ode To Billy Joe’ are all on a par with anything from the earlier album.
However, I just found some of the other tracks a little underwhelming and uninspiring. For me there was just a little too much of the old depressing feel of standard country music and not enough of the fresh innovative approach from the debut.
Having said that though there is still not an off key syllable or note to be found anyway and lovers of that old fashioned traditional sound will probably think I’m talking out of my hat. Everything music wise is of course down to personal taste. Once again the original tunes which encompass seven of the ten on offer feature great story telling from Rachel. Particuarly on opener ‘Karen Kane’ which is the best of the original compositions.
So all in all then a little bit of a drop down from “The Bootleggers Daughter” but as I said that may be down to my personal taste as much as the sophomore effect. However the scant thirty two minute duration lends creedence to the latter. Either way “City of Refuge” is still a good enjoyable album from an extremely talented artist who is surely going to around for a long time to come.
© Martin leedham. First published on RYM October 2010