Not for the first time here on RYM I’m slightly surprised to be the first person writing a review for an album by an artist who has recieved great critical acclaim from both their peers and the professional music reviewing glitterati.
For the uninitiated then Rachel Harrington was “reared among the Pentecostal pines of Oregan” and rather unexpectedly found herself the darling of the Euro-Americana scene not long after the release of this set. In fact non other than “Whispering Bob Harris” himself declared this one of the finest albums of the year.
“The Bootleggers Daughter” flits joyously between bluegrass, country and at times a more mainstream sound. One of its great qualities is the fact that it manages to sound like an old album recorded many many years ago and a fresh new album at the same time. To be honest I am not talented enough to describe in words exactly what I mean but if you listen to it I’m pretty certain you’ll understand exactly !
Rachel has a vocal style which seems suited by any tempo and manages to employ that country twang just enough for it not to become irritating or forced. It is probably one of the truest pure American voices I have heard.
Tracks wise the album kicks off with ‘Sunshine Girl’ which is one of the better known songs on the album. Far from the best track on the album it is lifted above the ordinary by the great vocal. ‘Shoeless Joe’ is a typical foot tapping country rocking tale which is one of my favourites and is a real stick in your head song. The highspeed banjo of Danny Barnes makes ‘Blow’ three and a half minutes of great yee ha music guaranteed to paint pictures of cowboys and wild west adventure in even the most dullest of imaginations. ‘Up The River’ has some great guitar work to compliment the, by now expected, classy vocal even if it may just be a tad too long. The next track is for some reason called ‘Untitled’ even though it contains the albums title line and is sung entirely without accompanyment. Listening through studio quality headphones you can actually hear Rachel breathing on the mike. It is basicaly just under two minutes of pure raw emotion and with a little volume will bring goosebumps to all but the clinically dead. The John Hurt penned ‘Louis Collins’, another heartfelt song of loss once again highlights Rachel’s superb vocal ability. The unavailabilty of the lyrics to the song in the booklet matters not one iota as every word is sung in crystalline clarity drenched in emotion. ‘Summers Gone’ is a little gem of a foot tapper and the only low point on the album is the rather dreary closer ‘Farther Along’.
“The Bootleggers Daughter” is a great debut album from an artist who really deserves to be heard by a wider audience. After witnessing Rachel playing live with Rod Clements from Lindisfarne earlier this month I can categorically state that if anyone has the ability and charisma to take this style of music to a wider audience it is surely Rachel Harrington.
© Martin Leedham. First published on RYM October 2010