PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Harpeth Rising: Tales From Jackson Bridge

The Nashville quartet offers up a lively mishmash.

Harpeth Rising

Tales From Jackson Bridge

Label: Self-released
US release date: 2013-10-15
UK release date: 2013-10-15
Artist website

Harpeth Rising play a type of modern acoustic Americana that relies on traditional instruments – guitars and banjos and fiddles, along with a cello for the bottom end – and song structures that often sound as if they've been channeled from a bygone era. The Nashville-based quartet have released four albums since their self-titled 2010 debut, and latest offering Tales From Jackson Bridge serves up an interesting mishmash ranging from foot-stomping country-ish rave-ups to dexterous instrumental workouts to tracks that wouldn't sound out of place on an indie rock album (whatever that means). With all four musicians contributing vocals, including three women, the songs have a warm, lush feel to them. Not every track is a standout of course, but overall this is a solid offering of modern-but-traditional fare.

Album opener "Wheelhouse" gets things off to a rollicking start, courtesy of squalling fiddle, a jaunty rhythm and expressive vocals. The album notes fail to specify who sings what, which is a shame, because the vocals are a strength here. The interplay between fiddle an banjo is another highlight, and one that elevates the tune from merely aping the traditions of old-timey music into something unique and individual.

Such uniqueness crops up throughout the record, leavened with other, less memorable moments. "Day After Day" is a considerably weaker tune, with a forgettable melody and a trotting rhythm that doesn't offer the listener much to hang onto. The harmonies are pretty on the chorus, but that's not enough. Things get considerably more interesting in the spooky, bouncy "Burn Away Your Troubles", which is propelled by slinky plucked cello lines (how often do you hear that?) and some nifty banjo licks. At their best, Harpeth Rising excel at this sort of thing, utilizing traditional sounds to create something far more interesting than the mere sum of its parts. Instrumental "Eris" does this as well.

Other times, the band falls into the worthy-folk-music trap, and things get less interesting. "The Sparrow" is low-key, downtempo and dull, while "You Won't Hear It From Me" is peppy, uptempo and dull. Overall, the middle of the record sags a bit.

Happily, the band pull it all together for the final three tracks. First comes an instrumental version of "House of the Rising Sun", a classic tune that here is stretched out and reworked in its slow opening section, before kicking into a more familiar middle gear for the final two minutes. Vocals would have been welcome, but their absence renders this most familiar song more alien, in a good way. This is followed by "Goin' My Way", a tune that frankly rocks in the context of the record, and maybe most other contexts as well; with its scratchy beat, hooks aplenty and snappy vocals, this is one of the best alt-rock songs you're likely to hear this year, even if it's not quite a rock band playing it. Finally, the record closes out with the somber but moving "Ghost Factory", a tune that aims for the heartfelt, and succeeds.

It's tough to know who will respond to this record – fans of pop and rock might find it too folkie, folkies might find it too weird or even raucous at moments, trad purists will turn up their noses. This is too bad, because there plenty of good moments here. Harpeth Rising makes the kind of music that people make when they don’t give a damn about trends or expectations or focus groups. We need more of that around.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.