Over the last decade, across a trio of albums, an EP and countless shows around Australia and North America, The Weeping Willows have slowly but surely built a loyal audience and critical acclaim, From their formation as a side project to Lachlan Bryan & The Wildes, there was initially little ambition and certainly no long term plan. As singer Laura Coates remarks, “when we put out our first album we had no idea what we were doing. We released it mid December, who does that?!”
You Reap What You Sow is the third of Coates and singer/guitarist Andrew Wrigglesworth’s albums and it completes a trilogy of releases that are bound together both by the artwork and the consistently high quality of the music. “From the album covers you’ll see they’re all pre-Raphaelite artworks by Evelyn De Morgan and though they have a stylistic through line, we don’t go in with a specific sound, it’s more the case of the influence of what we’ve been listening to. If our first album was folk/country and the second was more country/Americana, then this is country/Americana/blues.”
As has been the way for so many, the pandemic had a big impact on the intended release schedule for the album. “It was tough and mentally hard, particularly in 2020 when we didn’t know what was in store for us,” says Coates, looking back at the last two years. “Our album was due to come out in 2020 and we had an album launch booked. We had to decide if we should put the album out or hold it back. You live on the adrenalin of gigs and we lost inspiration and our identity in a way,” Coates says candidly. “There were some dark times but we decided to put out some singles and then we got a small window to tour and release the Southern Gothic EP of covers in 2021. We really needed that project!” says a grateful Coates.
Aside from the world class songwriting, the production and sound of the new album is quite magnificent. The duo travelled to Stampede Origin Studios, Los Angeles in December 2019, a few months before Covid first entered our lexicon, to again record with Ryan Freeland. “We had such an amazing experience with him on the second album,” Coates enthuses. “We originally chose him as he’d engineered so many of our favourite albums by acts like Milk Carton Kids and Bonnie Raitt and he understood that stripped-back sound, how to make two vocals and a guitar sound really lush and bigger than it is.”
Songs on the album run from the personal to the universal in terms of their subject matter, as Coates explains. “Some songs are completely fictional and some are drawing on real life experience. Generally we draw a lot of inspiration from myths, legends and gothic stories. The single ‘House of Sin’ is harking back to songs of temptation and redemption. ‘Lonesome Now I’m Gone’ is about making that final choice at the end of a relationship, inspired by a couple of our friends and ‘Turning To Stone’ is about mental ill health and friends who have died by suicide in recent years.”
Much like the simpatico musical/marital relationship of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, The Weeping Willows excel in the art of harmonies. Right across the new album their words and melodies intertwine and blend, two voices becoming one. ‘Wheels Won’t Roll’ is a perfect example of that that vocal marriage while on the closer ‘North Wind’ (a different version appeared on their first album) everything is stripped back to a raw a cappella, devastating in its emotive weight and impact.
A raft of top-shelf session players add colour and atmosphere to the recordings but for the most part the songs are guided and framed by the exquisite playing of Wrigglesworth, surely one of the finest roots music guitarists in this country. His mastery lays not just in his technical ability but in the way he blends folk, country and blues styles into his own seamless sound. ‘Singin’ The Blues’ possesses delicate melodic shards that hang like droplets above drowsily strummed chords. Contrast that with the weightier intonation of ‘Black Crow’ with its steel-string flurries that take the song into an intoxicating western noir world.
Though You Reap What You Sow is the final chapter in a decade-spanning trilogy it serves to build an even greater anticipation for what the duo will do next.
Sat 7 May: Archies Creek Hall, Archies Creek VIC
Sun 8 May: Burke and Wills Winery, Glenhope, VIC
May 10-12: Folk Alliance International – Spotlight Showcase Week 2022 – Live Stream
Fri 13 May: Brungle Memorial Hall, Brungle, NSW
Sat 14 May: Franks Wild Years, Thirroul, NSW
Sat 28 May: Casey Radio, Cranbourne VIC
Fri 10 June: Harmonie German Club of Canberra, Narrabundah ACT
Sat 11 June: The Upper Lansdowne Memorial Hall, Upper Lansdowne NSW
Sun 12 June: Django at Camelot, Marrickville, NSW