Review: Andrew King - The Bitter Harvest (1998)


artist: Andrew King
release: The Bit­ter Har­vest
format: CD
year of release: 1998
label: Epi­phany / World Ser­pent
dur­a­tion: 75:20

detailed info: dis​cogs​.com

The Bit­ter Har­vest was Eng­lish folk singer Andrew King’s debut album, released back in 1998 through World Ser­pent, which was still act­ive at the time. On this album, Andrew was still try­ing to find his own form of present­a­tion, and to those who have heard his recent work or seen him per­form, the songs on this one will seem rather bare and more tra­di­tional. Indeed, on the major­ity of these bal­lads, King sings unac­com­pan­ied, or with a min­imal drone back­ing. Like I said, this makes for quite tra­di­tional rendi­tions of these folk­songs. The vocal style is also dif­fer­ent, often being a bit softer and less epic than Andrew’s style of today.

The res­ult is that the greater part of this album is mainly inter­est­ing for tra­di­tional folk enthu­si­asts. Lov­ers of mod­ern exper­i­ment­a­tion or Andrew’s more recent power­ful post-industrial approach to folk will find little mater­ial to their lik­ing here.

That’s not to say that this album isn’t nice all the same. I for one really enjoy the rel­at­ively pure set­tings of these bal­lads, which really drags you into the tales they tell. Most of them are murder bal­lads of some sort; examples are “The Folke­stone Murder” and “Lily White Hand”, which relate the bru­tal murder of two young girls and a seduced young woman, respect­ively. At times, there is also a fore­shad­ow­ing of King’s later style. The excel­lent “The House Car­pen­ter” and “Maria Mar­tin”, for example, both chilling tales, also fea­ture more prom­in­ent accor­dion drone loops, and John Murphy provides guest per­cus­sion on the lat­ter track. “The Taunton Was­sail” is also a very nice track, by vir­tue of its mirth and energy.

So, while this may not be some­thing for every lover of mod­ern exper­i­mental and neo­folk, if you really enjoy Andrew’s works, this one is def­in­itely worth check­ing out, espe­cially if you have a soft spot for authen­tic folk song.

Reviewed by O.S.

Track­list:

1. May Song (2:15)
2. George Collins (4:39)
3. The Folke­stone Murder (4:35)
4. The House Car­pen­ter (8:57)
5. Sir Hugh (4:20)
6. Green Bushes (2:57)
7. Earl Richard (3:19)
8. Brigg Fair (2:03)
9. Young Andrew (11:25)
10. The Bither Withy (4:32)
11. Lily White Hand (2:27)
12. The Bon­nie Bunch of Roses (2:32)
13. The Hon­est Labourer (4:47)
14. Maria Mar­tin (6:55)
15. The Taunton Was­sail (2:47)
16. Sad Pro­ces­sional (3:40)
17. May Song (3:10)