Homesteading. That’s what Rachel Harrington‘s been up to since music took a backseat to horses, health, and family life back home. Once touted by Maverick magazine as “the hardest working woman in Americana” due to her relentless touring schedule, Harrington took a sabbatical to recharge.
“I was physically exhausted and decided to take a break from touring. But once I stopped, I didn’t feel any better.”
Obamacare gave the musician reduced-cost healthcare – which was how she learned she’d been severely anaemic for years without knowing it, and had several underlying medical issues. Those took a couple of years to trouble-shoot and cure, but were eventually resolved and she finally began to regain her health and energy. She started playing guitar again. And she rescued two horses that were headed to slaughter. One of them nearly feral, she spent months working with trainers and vets on rehab.
“Being with horses again felt good and grounding. Mud in your boots every day. Outside in the weather, in the field, every morning and every evening. Don’t get me wrong – it’s a pain in the butt. But there’s nothing better for my soul than nature and animals. I started playing a lot of guitar around that time and I knew horses would be all over my next album.”
Then, Rachel’s grandmother fell ill. The women in the family came together to sit vigil at the matriarch’s dying bed. When not at the hospital, Harrington spent those nights in her grandmother’s now empty home, where Rachel slept in the bed of her deceased uncle. A Vietnam vet, he’d committed suicide after returning from the war.
“Those nights I spent in his bed, I couldn’t help but think of him. And then in my grandmother’s attic, after she died, we found a shoebox full of letters. They were all the letters he’d gotten while in the service. I started doing a lot of research about Vietnam and was stricken by how war affects us all.”The resulting song is ‘Mekong Delta’.
War is a recurrent theme on this album. Harrington has also penned a deeply personal song – ‘The Barn’ – for her mother, about her mother’s long ago high school love who was killed in service during Vietnam. Too, the rockabilly-styled ‘Drop Zone’ takes its public domain lyrics from Army marching cadences.
Another theme is addiction. Sober from 1999 to 2008, Harrington began drinking again when she started touring as a professional musician. After a lengthy struggle of stops and starts, Rachel quit for good in March 2018.
“That’s when I started writing again in earnest.”
And personal her writing has become. ‘Gave It All Away’ is about a musician friend who overdosed. ‘Save Yourself’ is about her meth-addicted homeless brother. ‘Child of God’ is about the sexual assault she experienced at the age of eight.
The album isn’t all briars though. Rachel’s fallen in love with a former soldier. There are several love songs about their romance.
Too, the record has a tribute to the late Guy Clark, one of Harrington’s songwriting heroes. That song, ‘Susanna’, takes its name from Clark’s wife, who preceded him in death by a few years.
Hush the Wild Horses, Rachel’s 5th full-length studio album, releases September 2019. Its themes are farmed from the last seven years at home in Oregon. Family stories, from horses to Graceland, from Vietnam to the sweet hereafter, from wagon ruts to the interstate, everything dusted with the American West.
Recorded in Portland, Oregon, Nashville and Austin, the album features guest musicians who were hand-picked for their particular sounds. Pedal steel legend Lloyd Maines (father of Dixie Chicks’ lead singer Natalie Maines) lends his twang and mood. Fiddle is provided by Grand Ole Opry staff fiddlerEamon McLoughlin (Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell), while Laura Veirs and Shelley Short (Neko Case) provide spot-on harmony vocals.
Produced by Portland veteran musician Casey Neill (Casey Neill and The Norway Rats), the album was recorded at Scenic Burrows studio with engineer John Morgan Askew (Richmond Fontaine, The Delines, Laura Gibson).
Rachel Harrington · July UK & September-October Netherlands & UK 2019 Tour
Thu 4 Basingstoke The Forge @ The Anvil
Fri 5 Northampton Royal & Derngate
Sat 6 Easton, Suffolk Maverick Festival 2019
Sun 7 Easton Maverick Festival 2019, Gospel Brunch
Sun 7 King’s Lynn Captain Fawcett’s Emporium
Wed 10 Biddulph, Staffordshire Biddulph Town Hall
Fri 12 Beverley The Monk’s Walk
Sun 14 Sheffield The Greystones
Tue 16 Edinburgh Leith Folk Club, Victoria Park House Hotel
Thu 18 Inverness Eden Court Theatre
Sat 20 Gateshead SummerTyne Americana Festival 2019, River Cruise(5:20pm) with Massy Ferguson
Sun 21 Gateshead SummerTyne Americana Festival 2019, Concourse Stage (Noon) with Massy Ferguson
Mon 22 Birmingham Kitchen Garden Café
Wed 24 Worth Matravers, nr. Swanage The Square & Compass
Thu 25 Bournemouth The Firkin Shed, Bluegrass Discovery
Fri 26 Poole Beer and Bluegrass 2019
Sat 27 Poole Beer and Bluegrass 2019
Sun 28 London Green Note
Sun 29 Steendam, NL The Podium Café
Mon 30 Utrecht NL De Parel van Zuilen
Wed 2 Geldrop, NL Roots in ‘t Groen / Heerenhuys 23
Thu 3 Gemert, NL Tuney Thursday / De Bunker
Sun 6 Amsterdam Café Westerdok
Tue 8 Nijmegen, NL Café Trianon
Sat 12 Turner’s Hill, W. Sussex Private House Concert
Sun 13 Nottingham The Running Horse
Sat 19 Leeds Seven Arts