Will Harrison – A Place Called Home (2007)
purchase this album (CD Baby)
“Send my love to Carolina / ‘Cause in my mind, that’s where I’ll be,” sings Will Harrison on this album’s “The Borderline,” but don’t go thinking Harrison sounds like James Taylor. Matter of fact, you might as well disregard the Ryan Adams comparisons at his CD Baby page, too â€” where Taylor couches his harrowing tales in soothing surroundings, and where Adams lurches, arrogantly and without focus, across the musical landscape, Harrison is content to spin cold tales of torment from a sagging porch on a backwoods Arkansas road.
Strangely enough, Harrison appears to hail from the mall-gilded streets of Walnut Creek, California, but whether he came by his sound through experience or imitation isn’t really the point. The point, since you asked so nicely, is that â€” particularly for roots-music afficionados â€” A Place Called Home is a jewel. A cracked, filthy, yellowing jewel, but a jewel nonetheless. What the songs lack in deep, immediate resonance (and we’ll get to that in a minute), they make up in sheer vibe: Harrison’s fluid vocals lead the charge, alternating between ghostly croon and bloodshot howl, and they’re surrounded by a sepia-toned assortment of banjos, mandolins, violins, guitars, and other appropriately rustic paraphenalia. Harrison produced (and mixed most of) the album himself, and if the whole solo-artist thing doesn’t work out, he can use this album as a ticket to a career behind the board.
It has its shortcomings. It isn’t a cheerful album, which is fine, but all the loneliness and regret starts to feel a little heavy after awhile, and this is aggravated by Harrison’s tendency to slide into a barbed-wire growl in his lower register. It’s certainly effective, but in places, the record sags into dirge territory; for a twelve-song album, A Place Called Home feels curiously long. It’s a relatively minor complaint, but the lack of any real narrative arc covers these songs with a frost that makes it hard to get close to the album. Summer’s gone, youth has fled, and the songs’ protagonists have only the vapor trails of their own mistakes to hang onto â€” but we never develop enough of a bond with them to really get inside their stories.