RACHEL HARRINGTON "The Bootlegger's Daughter" (Skinny Dennis Records)
Rachel Harrington -a Seattle siren says her bio- calls her music "Acoustic Americana". It's a mix of country, bluegrass, old-time music and a little bit of folk and countryblues. For the music lovers who also like Gillian Welch! In 2004 she sent out a four song EP, "Halloween Leaves", more or less a livingroom demo. Have to say that I totally missed the disc, but it put her name on the map in Europe and now there's her official debut "The Bootlegger's Daughter"!
Rachel grew up in Eugene, Oregon. Her family lives already for generations in the NorthWest, working as lumberjacks and dairymen. As she was brought up in the strict Pentecostal church, the only music she heard as a child was gospel and... (I like this part!) her father's secret stash of Stax and Motown records, that he collected after his return from Vietnam. When her parents went to church in the evenings, she was allowed to stay home sometimes and then she would sing along with Otis Redding. She also loved Sam Cooke and the black gospel groups. At the age of twelve, during a stay with family in Montana, she began to ride horses and eventually participated in rodeo events. An old cowboy gave her riding lessons, while listening to Hank Williams, Loretta Lynn and George Jones on his favorite country radiostation. "Hearing Loretta Lynn changed my life. Finally, I had someone I could actually sing like", Rachel says and around that same time a family friend brought her the first guitar.
From there it went fast: she played in various bands, styles ranging from psychedelic folk to rockabilly and in 2004 she decided to start a solo career. During her college years she had studied creative writing and began to write short stories. "If anything, I think I'm actually a short story writer. The story always comes first." I totally agree with you, Rachel! And I love that picture on the cover of the CD, most of us will have old family pics like that. Rachel plays acoustic guitar on "The Bootlegger's Daughter" and gathered a stellar cast of musicians around her, to name a few: Danny Barnes (Tim O'Brien, Dave Alvin) on banjo, Marty Muse (Dwight Yoakam, Robert Earl Keen) plays pedal steel on one song, Mike Grigoni (Korby Lenker) on another; John Reischman (The Jaybirds) plays mandolin and Bob Rice (John Lee Hooker) brings in the archtop guitar.
The CD starts off with little lovesong "Sunshine Girl", indeed sunny. "Shoeless Joe" and "Blow - The Ballad Of Bill Miner" are old-timey
songs with interesting stories. "Up The River" was written by Laura Viers with an additional verse by Rachel, it's performed in the countryblues vein with a melancholic melody and a beautiful, yet simple guitar arrangement. "Untitled" surprises with pure a-capella singing and here's the CD-title: "When the lion shall lay down / for the son of a bootlegger's daughter / who was lost but now is found." So "Halloween Leaves" (great title!) apparently was already on that EP and has lines that color the scene: "For the coming of the snow / for the bitter winds that blow." Long slow ballad "Walk To You" got a very pretty intro with acoustic guitar and pedal steel, interplay continues throughout the lovesong: "For the fault line I can't pave / and the waves come crashing through / in the midnight now / I hear your heart beat into mine." I think Rachel shows her talents best in countryblues, her cover of John Hurt's song about "Louis Collins" also comes out excellent. I hope she goes more into that direction, not too many ladies play countryblues, it's a guarantee she'll turn heads in that department! Last song is the old traditional "Farther Along", sung like a slow hymn. What else can I tell you? I'm sure Rachel's music will find its way into the home of many music lovers!
Written by Johanna J. Bodde, March 2007.