Album Review – Harvest Thieves Make Solid Debut With ‘Rival’

Rival

The Texas music scene produced a lot of great music in 2015. And to start off 2016 this doesn’t seem to be changing, as some new music out of Texas will kick this year off the right way. Meet alt-country/Americana band Harvest Thieves. They’re based out of Austin, Texas and part of the label Holy Mountain Sounds. Harvest Thieves is made up of frontman Cory Reinisch (vocals/guitar), Dustin Meyer (vocals/bass), Annah Fisette (vocals/mandolin/keyboard), Coby Tate (guitar) and Wes Cargal (drums). Together they create a pretty unique sound, mostly blending garage rock and traditional country (with a few more influences here and there) to create a folksy, punk vibe in their music. But what’s the best about this is you’ll never know what you’re going to hear next. You’ll become intrigued by Harvest Thieves from the very beginning on their debut album Rival.

The album begins with the folk rock frenzy that is “Bob Dylan’s 78th Hangover.” The song is surprisingly catchy and you’ll find yourself hooked by song’s end. It’s a journey song based off a bender front man Reinisch experienced. “I was at a point where I had some important decisions to make and went about it in a way that purposely took me out of a place of comfort and complacency,” he explains. “I tried to soak up every experience, every person, and ultimately every open bottle I could find to help process. It was exhausting. I suppose it’s about discovering a balance through which to alternate between life’s extremes. Success and failure. Love and loss. Great potential and disastrous shortcomings.”

Heartbreak is the central theme of “Your Damn Vanity.” Like the city of Austin, a husband finds his wife and himself not be the same people they used to be. All of these changes have made him cynical towards love and life. He wishes his now ex-wife nothing but the worst while he sits and drowns his sorrows. The lyrics are dark, but very well written and make for an excellent heartbreak song. “The Least Of These” is steel guitar driven tune about a man who does what he pleases and follows the beat of his own drum, damn what everyone is saying around him. But he owns up to all of it. And perhaps what drives this attitude is a woman who claimed to love him, but he knew she didn’t have the “purest heart” and bid her farewell. So in the end you feel some sympathy towards this man, yet also envious of his honest lifestyle.

Reinisch and Fisette duet throughout “I Killed Laura Palmer.” This song has a psychedelic rock vibe, yet traditional country vibe too, from the instrumentation to the lyrics. It’s so weird, yet so alluring. What is this song alluding to? Is it about covering up murder? Is it about life? Ultimately I think it’s about how we all daydream of what we desire and why we can’t reach that desire now. This is definitely one of the standouts of this album. Electric guitars meet fiddles in “Peruvian Valium,” a song about discovery and love. Two people find the calling of the world around them, but both know they love each other. As the final line of this song says, “So, keep me in mind, and I’ll keep you in mine.”

“Part-Timer’s Lament” is about a person parting ways with a lover or perhaps a family member. Regardless of who it is this person has stepped out of line and is now being removed from the other’s life. They did something that was unforgivable and now they must deal with never being in the other’s life anymore. It’s a very angry song, making the fast guitar licks appropriate, as it gives the song a tense feeling that comes when you part ways with a person. The upbeat and ominous “Upstage On The Front Page” follows. It’s about a guy warning the current boyfriend of his ex-girlfriend of the trouble she is going to cause him. He saw it for himself and warns the current boyfriend he better be more careful. He doesn’t say exactly what she will do to him, but it isn’t good and not something you want to be careless about.

Harvest Thieves really show off their storytelling chops on “Desolation Wildfire.” It’s about a man who lives in California and works in the mountains. He chops down his trees and gets his paycheck every Friday, which he blows on drinking and debauchery by Monday. He doesn’t have a wife, children or a lot of money and the only friend he has, his dog, is set to die soon. It’s a very desolate and lonely life. The instrumentation on this song is fantastic, as an unexpected saxophone solo shows up in the bridge. “Talk of Surrender” blends the lines of fighting in a war and fighting for someone you love. Using imagery from both, it leaves the listener wondering which exactly the song is about, when it’s really about both. “Predestined Arrangement” tackles life and the concept of destiny. The message of the song is you shouldn’t get too angry or worried about the way things are because everything is predestined before they happen. It seems to apply you make your own destiny, so you really shouldn’t surprised about what happens to you.

Harvest Thieves toy with metal themes and lyrics throughout this album, but it’s most evident on “History Teachers.” Some might interpret this song to be political, but I believe it’s more about fighting for what you believe in and the end you’ll get what you deserve. “Lancelot’s Blade” closes out Rival. Like many songs throughout this album it relies on vivid imagery and metaphors to paint an interesting picture in the listeners’ heads. The song is about the only way to find your way in life is block out all outside influences, close your eyes and listen to what your heart is telling you to do. Once these ties are “severed” that you can find happiness. It’s a very freeing, spiritual song that wraps up and sums up the album well.

The Austin-music scene is full of a lot of different country and Americana groups, some good and some bad. And I can say with certainty that Harvest Thieves is one of the good ones. They really don’t sound exactly any other group I’ve heard from the Texas scene recently, although they definitely have some similarities of groups like Cody Canada & The Departed and Micky & The Motorcars with the way they blend rock and country influences. What stood out most to me though about Rival was the deep and well-thought out lyrics throughout it. It’s a lot further along than many new acts I hear and this bodes well for their future. If you like any of the groups I mentioned above, you’ll definitely enjoy this band. Harvest Thieves is band you need to have on your radar, especially if you’re a fan of country and Americana from the Texas scene.

Grade: 8/10