The Weeping Willows – Reap What You Sow
Australian duo The Weeping Willows is perhaps a Gothic-Bluegrass duo. Laura Coates (vocals/tambourine) & Andrew Wrigglesworth (ganjo-guitar-vocals). Ganjo — that’s spelled right it’s a banjo-guitar combo instrument.
The couple is tangled up in the tradition of American bluegrass but absorbed in its very essence by whipping it up in a Gothic-influenced cauldron of music. There are saints & sinners, haunted places, two-timed lovers, cobwebs & it all makes for quite an interesting musical journey because it’s not silly by a long shot.
On their latest & 3rd CD, 10-cuts grace Reap What You Sow (Drops March 4-Independent). All 3 of their prior CD covers are stunning. This features “Angel Piping to the Souls in Hell,” by Evelyn De Morgan.
The LP was recorded by 5x Grammy Award-winning engineer Ryan Freeland (Ramblin Jack Elliott, Bonnie Raitt, Aimee Mann) in LA & played piano, accordion & wrote the string arrangements to “Turning to Stone.”
The duo has a masterful grip & it’s evident most clearly on the hauntingly beautiful “Lonesome Now I’m Gone.” The picking throughout the LP is done with expertise but the vocals are what are captivating. They sound genuinely Kentucky American in tradition & on “Wheels Won’t Roll” at times modern, sometimes retro. There’s even an Erik Darling & the Rooftop Singers’ quality (“Walk Right In”) to the showcase.
Andrew’s guitar is fiery & can possess a John Fahey vintage atmospheric approach in spots (the classic “Poor Boys Long Way From Home,” “Last Steam Engine” & “On the Sunny Side of the Ocean”). The Weeping Willows sound for the most part is full on these recordings. The instrumental “Prelude,” borders on Dead Can Dance-type instrumentation. Steeped in old-world darkness that’s gloomy yet has its own beauty.
“Bells Ringing In the Churchyard,” is the duo personified. There’s a tint of Fairport Convention-Steeleye Span-Pentangle in their performance. Laura’s voice has a female tone that can soar with delicacy or drape a song in medieval mysteries. Chelsea Allen & Megan Bird add guest vocals to “Bells Are Ringing In the Churchyard.”
The opening cut “House of Sin,” is a laid-back acoustic tune with pristine duet singing. The group never gets so dark that they fall out of the bluegrass tradition. They suggest the darker side of music that is generally upbeat & danceable. This song is constructed with a more deviant bluegrass atmosphere. Even when you’re in a barn there’s a sinister smell of age. It’s produced with a clever twist of indulgence. But it works, it’s convincing & above all — different.
The self-produced collection also features David Piltch (upright bass), Luke Moller (fiddle/mandolin), Kevin Breit (banjo), Tommy Detamore (pedal steel), & James Church (dobro).
This isn’t an album a bluegrass purist won’t understand. It’s a bluegrass album for ears that are open to possibilities in an old music genre. It’s performed with brilliance & expressiveness.
Photo courtesy: Ian Laidlaw. The CD available @ Bandcamp + http://www.theweepingwillows.com.au/