Brilliant, maddening, addictive....Harnetty has proved that one way to preserve history is to weave it into the moment and let it vanish in our midst while echoing forever its truths, aphorisms, superstitions, and lies. Highly recommended. 4.5/5 stars.
— Thom Jurek, Allmusic
Many are the artists who have been deeply affected by hearing scratchy old recordings, but Brian Harnetty has devised a way to let us simultaneously experience ancient audio documents and his music inspired by them….Harnetty lets us eavesdrop on moments of great beauty….there are so many striking moments.
— Clive Bell, The Wire

American Winter, Brian Harnetty's recording debut, was released in 2007 to wide critical acclaim. Dusted Magazine stated that American Winter was a "seamless exploration of some deep vaults while recontextualizing the sound of America’s past for a whole new generation." The album is comprised of archival songs, interviews, and in-between sounds of the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives combined with live instruments. American Winter was released on the Chicago avant-label Atavistic Records, and was made with generous support and encouragement from the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives.

Three connected streams are present: Songs made from interviews and singing, brief interlude pieces (from radio broadcasts, home-made recordings, and field recordings), and story pieces where extended interviews and radio broadcasts are in the forefront. The pieces point toward both the season of winter and to broader ideas: the winter of politics, war, emotion, history, and finally to its ultimate hope of renewal.

Below, listen to selected tracks from the album, and view a recently made score for American Winter to mark its 10-year anniversary.


1. The Night is Quite Advancing (4:39)
2. It May Be Wintery Outside Tonight, But Inside (0:17)
3. I'll Cross the Briny Ocean, I'll Cross the Deep Blue Sea (3:25)
4. I'll Have To Go Off and Be Gone Tonight (3:54)
5. As I Lay On the Prairie, and Looked At the Stars (0:47)
6. The Famous Goldfish Bowl (Which Is Really Just a Huge Jar) (3:14)
7. That's Drunkard's Dream, Nearly Everybody Knows It (3:38)
8. Instrumental With Fiddle and Harmonium (0:38)
9. While Pacing a Garden, I Paused For To Hear (I Listened a Moment, Then Turned Me To See) (3:37)
10. I Was Interested in the Story You Just Told Me About the Funeral (5:00)
11. In London City I Used To Dwell (2:11)
12. Speaking To the American Farmer (1:09)
13. Thank You, Vern Henson (0:37)
14. I Am On the Gospel Highway (My Heart Has Brought Me Home) (4:46)
15. The Soldier Pulled Off His Uniform of Blue (6:42)
16. Soon We'll Reach the Starry Sky (3:17)
17. We'll Look for You If We Come Back (0:44)


 "Brian Harnetty was among the first Appalachian Music Fellows [at the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives]. Initially overwhelmed by the collection's richness, he quickly immersed himself in field recordings, radio programs, and oral history interviews. We conversed daily about what he'd heard, the concept of tradition, and collections as a type of composition. The resulting pieces take the known, unknown, and forgotten, reworking them into new cloth and exposing new layers of humanity." --John H. Bondurant, Sound Preservation Archivist, Berea College

Source Material, Musicians, And Recordings From The Berea Archives: 
Addie Graham (tracks 1, 7, 11, 12, 15) 
Renfro Valley Barn Dance (2) 
Frankie And Lionel Duff (3, 9) 
Nova And Travis Baker (4) 
Henry Pennington (4) 
Pinex Merrymakers (5) 
Girls Of The Golden West (5) 
"President Roosevelt Begins Draft" News Broadcast (6) 
Dock Ison (8) 
A.L. Phipps (10) 
Howard Chalmer And Hurley Smith (11) 
"American Farmer" Radio Program (12) 
Arthur Godfrey (13) 
Elizabeth And Arminda Stacy (14) 
"The Commandos" Radio Program (15) 
Berzilla Wallin And Della Norton (15) 
Mrs. Bradley (16) 
David Hill (16) 
Leonard And Blanch Brake (17) 

For Michael Finnissy