ALBUM REVIEW: Dorthia Cottrell – Death Folk Country


There is a rich tradition of Doom musicians releasing stripped-back acoustic affairs as the likes of Scott Weinrich, Tony Reed, and Mike Scheidt can attest to. Windhand‘s Dorthia Cottrell is no exception and Death Folk Country (Relapse Records) marks her second solo effort to date following a self-titled debut in 2015.

Dorthia was raised in rural King George, Virginia, a town with less than 5,000 inhabitants, and as a young Goth was something of an outcast. This combination of the boredom and beauty of her home environment is what informs the record. 


‘Death is the Punishment for Love’ sets the tone for the album to come rather effectively with its Gothic inflections and the use of both creepy ghostly vocal effects and ambient sounds. ‘Harvester’ can be seen as a broad commentary about spirituality and the omnipresent spectre of Christianity, which to quote Dorthia “Bad or good, in the patterns of nature you can see the patterns of all life, maybe even the patterns of the universe too, and that symmetry to me is god, and I’m grateful for it.” The track is sparse and stripped down with vocals of an otherworldly nature and wind chimes for company. 


The feelings of isolation from living in such a stiflingly conservative yet visually striking environment is beautifully conveyed here. ‘Black Canyon’ is a little more countrified but tastefully done, thankfully not in The Judds vein, think more of the dark Americana of artists such as 16 Horsepower instead. When I saw the title ‘Family Annihilator’ I couldn’t help but think of the horrendous events surrounding the Chris Watts case. However the number feels more like it belongs to the America of yesteryear, perhaps the depression era, and could therefore possibly soundtrack Cormac McCarthy‘s novel Blood Meridian. Sublime. 


‘Effigy at the Gate of Ur’ has a distinctive sixties vibe about it, like a low-key ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ and an emotional resonance that warms the heart, meanwhile ‘Midnight Boy’ is bluesier in tone and unusually reminds me of ‘Sam Hell’ from Helmet‘s Betty album, albeit a little more serious than the more throwaway nature of that track. 


‘Hell in My Water’ reminds you of the folk-tinged blues intimacy of Leadbelly (which is never a bad thing) and ‘Take Up Serpents’ feels like a lullaby that would soothe even the most restless of souls (including that of yours truly). ‘For Alicia’ taps into Dream Pop territory ala Beach House and their track ‘D.A.R.L.I.N.G.’ in particular, and certainly marks a departure from Cottrell’s day job yet is also what stands out from the rest of the pack. 


Possibly my favourite tune on the album. ‘Eat What You Kill’ reminds one of the late Townes Van Zandt which is of no great surprise considering that she guested on the Songs of Townes Van Zandt, Vol. II album (Neurot Recordings) where she dueted with Nate Hall (US Christmas). Remember that scene from the film Heartworn Highways where Townes is singing ‘Waitin’ Around To Die’ to Uncle Seymour Washington who becomes overwhelmed and starts to cry? That’s the kind of effect it has on you, a stunning penultimate track. 


‘Death is Reward for Love’ acts as a mirror companion piece to opener ‘Death is the Punishment for Love’ and brings the album full circle to its conclusion as a result. 


There’s no doubt for me that Cottrell’s vocals are what have stood Windhand out from their contemporaries and with Death Folk Country, this fact is highlighted still further. This is a fantastically captivating and powerful release that even hardened doomsters will appreciate. 

Buy the album here:


9 / 10