MOJO Magazine: 4 stars:
For nearly 10 years Ohio sound artist Brian Harnetty has been immersed in Kentucky's Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives, composing new arrangements for found songs and voices. Here he rescores eight gruesome children's tales of witches, bears, and serial killers into a kind of spectral music box jazz-for-voices, imbued with a deep eerie poignancy.
–– Andrew Male, April, 2016
The Operative Magazine:
Dust-to-Digital, the Atlanta-based imprint responsible for some of 2015′s most sterling collections of scavenged and crate-dug archival recordings, has capped off a landmark year with Rawhead & Bloodybones, a new album by composer Brian Harnetty. Harnetty’s pairing with Dust-, a label with firm stakes in the business of storytelling and cultural resurrection, couldn’t be more apt; toeing the ever-eroding line between musical composition and sound art, Harnetty specializes in a brand of sonic collage that weaves rich narrative patchworks from dense and disparate source material. If he was last seen culling from the Sun Ra/El Saturn collection on The Star-Faced One (2013), a constellatory portrait of the late, great Ra, Harnetty’s now grounded himself firmly in Appalachia with Rawhead, a cross-sectional window into American folklore.
Through collaboration with the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives in Kentucky, Harnetty has compiled recordings that find a series of speakers delivering tales of the quotidian, wondrous, and (more often than not) deeply macabre. Spliced and meshed with instrumentation both old and newly composed, these stories are revived as haunting tone-poems, enigmatic time-capsules that swirl about in a tintype haze. “Merrywise,” recounted by a young girl named Jane Muncy, is the record’s emblematic opening track—one which spins a yarn of a young boy, a witch, and well, I won’t spoil it…
–– December, 2015
The Big City: Personal Best list of 2015
Not the usual archival release from Dust-to-Digital, but new music from composer Harnetty. He combines samples of music and spoken audio from both the Berea College Appalachian Sound Archives and the Sun Ra/El Saturn Creative Audio Archive, and to the prerecorded music he adds original, acoustic touches. This is a dialogue between past and present, memory and action, grisly, strange, and compelling.
––George Grella, Jr., December, 2015
Christian B. Carey:
For label Dust-to-Digital’s fiftieth release, they tap composer Brian Harnetty, an artist known for blending vintage spoken word and field recordings with his own music. Rawhead and Bloody Bones features 1940s accounts by young people of scary stories. The contrast between Harnetty’s music, which references both traditional Appalachian styles and contemporary folktronica, and the recounting of often grisly tales in children’s voices, is at times startling. But there’s a very effective haloing of the voices by the music that provides a layer of remove, reminding us that these are “ghost stories” in many senses of the word.
A second disc of instrumentals brings the essentials of Harnetty’s creations to the surface, consisting of gentle electronics, vibraphone and chimes, solo banjo and viola lines, and sustained chords from saxophone and trumpet. Two very different sides of the same coin, Rawhead and Bloody Bones is the better for the inclusion of both CDs.
–– January, 2016