Americana and folk often are found hand in hand. Hardworker, a quartet fronted by the songwriter Susannah Long, take the two genres and blend them with a splash of country for a great opening EP to their musical catalogue.
Opener “Born Homesick” has banjos, ukulele’s, pianos, jingly bells and soft organs building up a collage of sound that straddles barn dance and country. Sussanah’s voice have a homely depth to it that sounds like she’s pining on her front porch with a guitar but would also quite like to shout drunkenly in a bar too. It’s got a real drive to it and the lyrics are smart too. “Moriah” then moves slightly towards a gospel folk style with warm guitars, brass and organs creating a warm safety net for every word to be caught.
“The Apathy Hymn” is possibly my favourite track on the EP. The lyrics really spoke to me as Long comes to peace with “I’ve made my peace with the riptide. I’ve been alive in the places that I’ve died”. It’s a rootsy folk track with a kick and that is something I really dug. “Darkroom Lullaby” is gentle lamentful ballad. For the most part its a duet between the rolling guitar chords and the voice. The final third sees a collection of strings join in for an emotive finale as the words “I’ve swallowed the sun just to change” barely sound like they are capable of being sung. The closing track is the titular “The Awful Rowing” and encapsulates all that has gone before it in a great midtempo sway. It feels rich with emotion and sincerity.
As a newcomer to the band and Susannah Long, I am utterly bowled over. It’s a great folk EP with tinges of country and Americana thrown in – but its distinctly a unique and emotional blend. One new fan stepping up right here!