An EP is often an ideal way to experiment with a new artist, offering an alternative to the full CD at a cheaper price.
Halloween Leaves is a four-song offering of soothing folk from Seattle singer-songwriter Rachel Harrington. The CD cover is very evocative of the title, with a double exposure of a black-and-white Harrington with her guitar over a colorfully leaf-strewn autumn sidewalk.
Starting off is "My Morphine," a Gillian Welch cover. Harrington's interpretation is straightforward, with the light rolling guitar letting the lyrics do the talking. Even the gibberish chorus sounds natural coming from Harrington's lips. "Hickory Wind" doesn't offer as much to the listener. This Gram Parsons cover is minimal and dreary, but so is a good portion of Parsons' music. Harrington does her best, but even her overdubbed harmonies can't keep this one interesting. (Interestingly, Welch also covered the song on a Parsons tribute album.)
The single Harrington original, "Halloween Leaves," fits in well with the other three selections, but doesn't seem to have a clear direction. Many of the strums sound like missed notes, though I give the benefit of the doubt and assume they were written that way. Since it ends before it appears to go anywhere, it leaves a sense of dissatisfaction. Luckily, the often-covered soul tune "That's How Strong My Love Is" follows immediately after. This is the definite highlight of this short album, with Roosevelt Jamison's memorable chorus sticking in the memory long after the CD has ended, and exhibiting the immortality of a truly great song. It is also the only time any real emotion is detected from Harrington's delivery, making this track too short at any length.
The four tracks on
Halloween Leaves do not vary much from one to the other, which is surprising in itself given that each has a different songwriter. This makes for a musically cohesive album, but a bit of a boring listen. When I wasn't paying particular attention, I felt as if I were listening to a single fourteen-minute track. This is likely to be a bonus for listeners using
Halloween Leaves as background music after a stressful day, but it doesn't give much insight into whether Harrington has a wealth of interpretive abilities or is simply a one-trick pony. Her own album -- the main tool an artist has for marketing -- makes her look like a limited talent. Luckily, in this case, each potential buyer can make his or her own decision. All of the songs are available for download on Rachel Harrington's
This review originally appeared in somewhat different form on
The Green Man Review. Copyright 2004. Reprinted with permission.
Rachel Harrington: Halloween Leaves
Hailed by some as the soon-to-be No Depression Cover Girl, Rachel Harrington’s musical influences are steeped in the tradition of singer-songwriters: Steve Earle, Townes Van Zandt, Richard Buckner, Gillian Welch.
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