Adelaide’s Workhorse issues her proper followup to 2017’s No Sun. That record felt pretty criminally underrated, especially in the US. As she eases into No Photographs, Harriet Fraser-Barbour (Wireheads, Fair Maiden) amplifies what made that album work, deepening her songwriting with an expansion on themes of belonging and acceptance, laying them alongside new focuses on extinction, loneliness, and making ends meet. The record was engineered by Tom Spall, her Wireheads bandmate, who helps her amplify the album’s darkness and deep furrows. While Fraser-Barbour performs the multitude here, excelling at everything from organ to lap steel, Sky McNicol’s violin makes more than a few appearances, giving the album some of its needed tension and tenderness. It comes through with particular grace on a loving tribute to Joan Baez, a cover of her song “River In The Pines,” re-imagined as a Fairport/Pentangle-style anglican folk ballad that feels like is may have existed for 50 years already
Quite a few of the tracks here dig deep into connections with darkness and personal demons, but Fraser-Barbour does have a lighter side that comes through on songs like the tongue in cheek title track, a Link Wray rumble that cosplays in a twang-soaked country countenance. She visits a darker inverse of the country ramble on “Rode A River,” a song that comes in like dark clouds with themes of preparing for the apocalypse. The collapse of societal norms is a feeling that itches under the surface of the album, themes that many can relate to in increasingly uncertain days. Those feelings of coming un-moored and a tenor of uncertainty tie No Photographs together into a relatable diary of the decline, though not one without some glimmer of hope. It’s a large step forward for Workhorse and one that should not only resonated with her circle in Australia, but far and wide.
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