Rayna Gellert: Workin’s Too Hard
Workin’s Too Hard is the follow-up to American singer and fiddler Rayna Gellert’s album Old Light: Songs from my Childhood and Other Gone Worlds, an extraordinary album of traditional and original songs that set the benchmark very high indeed. It was reviewed here on its release in 2013 as was her subsequent EP which was more grounded in her background as fiddler with old-time string band Uncle Earl and her roots in Appalachian mountain music.
The songs on this new album (two traditional and five originals) stand up very well beside the high quality of that debut solo album. It was obviously worth the wait as soon as we hear the warm and melancholy sound of Gellert’s voice. This is never better than on the magnificent ‘River Town’ a sad story of resignation that harks back to mainstream country music but is written and delivered with real poignancy rather than sentimentality.
‘Grey Bird’ is another standout song and so is the lovely simple and subtle ‘Perry’ which unusually for Gellert includes piano backing. The two traditional songs are ‘Oh Lovin’ Babe’, also recorded fairly recently by Anna & Elizabeth on their second album, and an almost rockabilly version of ‘I’m Bound for the Promised Land’ which closes the album.
Although the North Carolina-based Gellert is renowned as an expert fiddler and also as a teacher of the instrument, the fiddle appears only a couple of times on these songs which are more based around guitars and a small sympathetic band of musicians helping to create just the right sound textures to show off the songs in their best light.
The one obvious note of slight dismay is that the running time is under half an hour, making it, in fact, shorter than the previous EP. But in these times, when releases come in all shapes, sizes and formats, it would be a bit churlish to complain too much, especially when what we do have is so superbly sung, written and played. Workin’s Too Hard is pure joy from start to finish even if it doesn’t match the length of that wonderful Old Light album. Let’s hope there is more on the way soon.
Workin’s Too Hard is released by StorySound Records. Rayna Gellert is currently on a tour of the UK and details of the dates are on her website.