Album Review

The Weeping Willows – You Reap What You Sow: Album Review

Gothic Americana like you’ve never heard before from The Weeping Willows – with love from Melbourne, Australia!

Release Date:  4th March 2022

Label: EMI Music Australia

Formats: CD, Vinyl, Download, Stream

Despite world events trying to take this current year in an altogether more negative direction, there is absolutely no doubt that 2022 is shaping up to be a classic year for music.  And, just today, I’ve had the pleasure of hearing the latest installment in the year’s blossoming catalogue, in the shape of You Reap What You Sow, the phenomenal new album from Melbourne’s Americana duo, The Weeping Willows.  If you’ve yet to hear this duo, famed for their blend of “songwriting, storytelling, virtuoso playing and perfectly matched voices” (thanks to Chris Familton of Aussie alt-country website Post to Wire for that marvelous description…), then I strongly suggest that you get a-searching right away, because you’re missing a huge treat!

The Weeping Willows are Laura Coates, a vocalist of outstanding ability – her voice is utterly enchanting – and Andrew Wrigglesworth, who plays guitar and ganjo in a way that you’ll have seldom heard before and contributes to some of the sweetest, most spine-tinglingly awesome vocal harmonies that you’ll ever hear – in this world or probably even the next.  The duo’s presence hasn’t gone unnoticed – they’ve already received a raft of awards, their tours in both their native Australia and in the USA are becoming the stuff of legend and the duo’s 2016 album won 4-star reviews in Rolling Stone, The Australian and The Music.  You Reap What You Sow is their third album outing and follows hot on the heels of their 2021 mini-album, the seven-track Southern Gothic.

And gothic imagery plays a significant part in the sound that The Weeping Willows have developed for themselves.  Laura and Andrew describe themselves as “A couple of old souls, steeped in Bluegrass tradition and draped in Gothic Americana imagery,” and their mission “To regale their audiences with stories of sunshine and romance, God and The Devil, murder and decay.”  As Laura explains: “We’ve always been drawn to the more sinister, ‘Gothic’ side of Americana music that hearkens back to the early blues, as well as bluegrass and mountain music traditions.”

And You Reap What You Sow is positively bursting with that imagery, but in the most enticing and tuneful way that it’s possible to imagine.  Laura and Andrew can certainly carry an album’s worth of material on their own without really needing to seek outside help, such is their virtuosity and mutual understanding, but for You Reap What You Sow, they have chosen to add a stellar cast of supporting musicians to put a layer of icing on what is, already, a wonderfully tasty cake.  David Piltch on upright bass, Luke Moller on fiddle and mandolin, Kevin Breit on banjo, Tommy Detamore on pedal steel, James Church on dobro, Ryan Freeland on accordion and Chelsea Allen & Megan Bird on backing vocals all add their tasteful contributions which, in every case, enhance – rather than detract from – the main dish of Andrew’s guitar and those delicious harmony vocals.

House Of Sin, the album’s first single, gets proceedings underway.  The album’s press release warns us to expect “sinuous fingerpicking” from Andrew, and, right from the outset, the listener is left wondering how he does it!  The song is bluesy and captivating, the harmonies are lush and Laura’s voice is divine.  It’s a great opening number that leaves the listener in no doubt that You Reap What You Sow is, indeed, going to be very special indeed.

A beautiful passage of country waltz guitar introduces the folky Singing The Blues.  Again, the vocal harmonies are sublime; David’s plodding bass provides added richness and Ryan’s accordion gives the song a cosy southern-border feel.  I think that it was around this point that I realized that everything about You Reap What You Sow is measured perfectly – nothing is overdone, yet nothing is left undone or unfulfilled.

Shuffly guitar and banjo combine brilliantly on Black Crow, a folky ballad that recounts the final thoughts of a condemned man – a great song that’s made even better by James’s dobro fills and a wonderful solo, before things are slowed down a touch for Lonesome Now I’m Gone, the current single.  Andrew and Laura share the lead vocals as they play the parts of disassociated lovers in a slow, heartworn song of separation and, once again, Andrew’s magnificent guitar playing is enriched by accordion, fidlle and, in particular, some soaring pedal steel from Tommy.

And speaking of that guitar, Andrew’s playing on the bluesy rag Wheels Won’t Roll left me breathless and, not for the first time, I was left to wonder how just one man and one guitar can deliver such a full and intricate tune.  Awesome!

I was given prior warning that Laura’s vocal on the prairie waltz, Fall Out of Time, is considered to be a “career best” and, by this stage, I knew that had to mean something REALLY special.  And I wasn’t disappointed – her delivery is intimate, wistful and would surely melt the hardest of hearts; and the accordion, strings and pedal steel just helped to pile on the sadness – a beautiful song.

Fiddle, banjo and guitar combine wonderfully to evoke images of a damp, misty churchyard scene, just as dawn breaks, in Prelude, the album’s only instrumental track, and that classically gothic setting is retained for Bells Are Ringing in the Churchyard, a sad, eerie tale of a young brother and sister gathered at their father’s grave to contemplate the circumstances that put him there.  With yet more of that stunning guitar, banjo and pedal steel and those glorious vocal harmonies, what more could we possibly ask for?

Bowed double-bass gives Turning to Stone an almost classical feel, and the vocals are once again breathtaking in this song of lost love, before the a-cappella North Winds brings this exquisite album to a close.  In a poignant song of farewell, the two-part harmony is the perfect way end the album – a final taste of what The Weeping Willows do best.  You Reap What You Sow is absolutely outstanding!

For our Australian readers – I’m pleased to announce that there’s more to come very soon from The Weeping Willows.  They’ll be on tour from now until May and could very well be visiting a town near YOU.  If they are – don’t hesitate – get yourself along there.  I would, if only I could!  Details of the tour are available here.

Watch the Official video to House of Sin – the album’s opening track and its first single – here:

The Weeping Willows Online: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram / Spotify / YouTube

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