Thursday, June 27, 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)
4.5/5

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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