An excellent mix of gritty lyrics and country-rock fortified with a bit of extra rock.
Harvest Thieves, from Austin in Texas, call themselves an “alt-country collective” which leads you to wonder what the dynamics of the six-piece group are in not calling themselves a band. They say that there have been significant recent changes to their line-up, so perhaps they are more fluid than your average combo. This, their second album, after the 2016 ‘Rival’ has been four years in the making, which included the pandemic.
They sound more country-rock than alt-country and, although they have been likened to Jackson Browne, are much more like the sixties and seventies Los Angeles country-rock outfit Poco. However, they have a slightly harder edge than Poco both musically and lyrically without becoming hard rock. This works very well; they have got their sound just right. Michael Gibson on lead guitar provides the high notes and country licks while vocalist Cory Reinisch complements this beautifully at the lower end with some country twanging. Annah Fisette, who plays keys and mandolin, also provides some excellent lead vocals but also great harmonies. There is a lot of very nice steel guitar throughout from legendary player Lloyd Maines.
Lyrically, the album is much more interesting than some of the bland offerings of traditional country-rock. The swinging opener ‘Birth Of A Salesman’, with ringing lead guitar and Fisette’s harmonies, is none too complimentary about this line of work: “For many years I have travelled, countless lies I have told/Hell, I’d say by my count you’ve already been bought and sold”.
The energetic next track ‘Cadillacs In The Sky’ is scathing about the hypocrisy of using religion for political gain. ‘Empire Falls’, a Gram Parsons-like country lament which closes the album, is “about finding optimism in the face of madness and uncertainty” and seems to be about Trump: “I heard frailty in a madman’s voice, pouring salt in open wounds”
They also cover more personal issues, with ‘Unrequited’ being the voice of a troubled woman singing about her lover: “I don’t know how to keep myself from going under /Can’t keep these demons at bay…anymore”. The catchy ‘Golden Age’, which includes country fiddle, tells of travelling around in an affair with another musician while ‘Gaslighter’ crunches a size 10 boot into the soft and dangly parts of a male acquaintance of theirs: “I don’t think I’ve ever met a man so goddamn insecure”
The evocative ‘McCulloch Wind Chimes’ with its longing for home reminds you again of Gram Parsons; this time his song ‘Hickory Wind’. In ‘Avenue A’ the writer is in New York struggling with alcohol addiction, while another very catchy offering ‘Friendly Fire’ is, according to Reinisch, “about growth and achievement in the face of adversity. About finding your own lane in life and not adhering to anyone else’s expectations of who you are or what you should be”.
The gritty lyrics and the country-rock with a bit of extra rock added work so well. It’s an excellent album.