As follow up to Vinyl Cubes interview with Noble Musa of Microforum, I’m delighted to share my thoughts on Harrow Fair’s Call to Arms, the first vinyl pressing from the new WarmTone presses at Microforum.
The first vinyl to come off the presses is the debut album from Harrow Fair. Harrow Fair is Miranda Mulholland (Great Lake Swimmers, Belle Starr) and Andrew Penner (Sunparlour Players).
Self-described as “One part stomping songs that echo early Country and Rock n Roll. The other gritty ballads that sound sweet and haunted. This duo’s evocative and rapidly expanding collection of songs are utterly foreign, oddly familiar and deeply gratifying.”
Gratifying indeed! The magical blending of vocals from Mulbholland and Penner are frequently haunting as they play off each other and then present us with captivating harmonies. Opening with Hangnail’s chant “this is how it begins” I felt like I was given a good shake and told to “listen up – you’re going to like this but pay attention”. Pay attention because you may recognize Hank William’s Told A Lie to My Heart, but this duo makes it their own with a deep roots sound.
With I Will Be Your Man you feel like possibly you’re not supposed to be there. The production has a subtle distance to it that gives the sound of these two singing for each other and we’re just allowed to listen and enjoy.
Held Tight holds you tightly with warm harmonic vocals, soaring fiddle and beautifully crafted guitar. This number starts simply but then treats you with multiple musical layers. You recognize the Celtic roots, but are equally surprised as Held Tight evolves into a more current folk tone.
The title track Call to Arms once again demands that you pay attention. Penner digs deep for some of those vocals.
Harrow Fair Pig Auction is – well – just fun!
How Cold and Emmaline (previously released on Miranda’s 2014 album Whipping Boy)are those haunting numbers both vocally and through finely played and produced instrumentation.
The Hunt is a short instrumental piece that tries to prepare you for Bite the Way – a gripping country-rock that should make you get up on your feet.
The album finishes with Been There Ways. Another haunting and finely crafted song. I loved the way Andrew Penner slid the emotion of his voice from Bite the Way to make the listener feel like these musicians really care. Mulholland and Penner sound most together musically on this piece.
While it’s not on this album, you must also listen to Harrow Fair’s cover of Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game