Friday, August 23, 2019

New Music Revue: Brian Harnetty comes close to perfect with new album

June 13, 2019 by Fred Cameron, contributing writer

Brian Harnetty
Shawnee, Ohio
(Karl Records)

You probably won’t hear it on the radio, but Shawnee, Ohio is an amazing work of art. The sixth studio release from Columbus, Ohio-based interdisciplinary artist Brian Harnetty pushes musical boundaries without the slightest hint of awkwardness.

Shawnee, Ohio is a collection of archival soundbites set to music. A mixture of old and contemporary recordings backed by an Appalachian chamber folk ensemble, Harnetty’s latest album paints a picture of the divided culture of rural Appalachian Ohio. Each track tells a bit of the story from a different perspective, and all the songs stand out, but Shawnee, Ohio is incredibly cohesive and plays well in its entirety.

“Boy” is the recollection of a young man asking his grandmother what life was like when she was young, set to a mix of banjo, fiddles, and piano that captures the emotion perfectly. Others tell stories of their youth in a town that never quite recovered from a mining disaster, which are eventually contrasted with current-day protests against fracking practices.

Harnetty’s music is like nothing I’ve ever heard. It is understated yet breathtaking. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it initially, but I listened to the record start to finish for 14 straight days, and was moved to tears numerous times. I’m not comfortable handing out a 5/5 rating, but Shawnee, Ohio comes close.

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