Rainbows in the Dark:  Dorthia Cottrell — “Death Folk Country”

Conjuring images of golden hour illuminated pine forests and vast tall grass fields in rural Virginia, Dorthia Cottrell explores her hometown and her own heart in this deeply personal release Death Folk Country.  The album title perfectly captures the sound exuded within.  Her rustic and melancholy vocals rise above simple acoustic guitar melodies, cymbal crescendos and decrescendos, organ tones, and strings.  This curated sound draws listeners in to focus on the hypnotizing echoing vocal harmonies and poetic lyrics.  Exploring themes of home and the mixed memories associated with it, this emotive album takes on a unique darkness and beauty that is not only heard but felt in each and every note. 

Death Folk Country is Cottrell’s second full length solo release.  Perhaps more popularly known for her work as the vocalist in doom band Windhand, her solo work has become a more personal creative venture.  She explains that “the title Death Folk Country is partly me describing a genre that fits the sound – but it’s also meant to be taken as a Naming, a coronation of the world inside me.  Death Folk Country is the music and also the land where the music takes place, and the two have always been inextricable from each other.”

The album opens and closes with two ambient tracks titled “Death is the Punishment for Love” and “Death is the Reward for Love,” that stand apart from the remaining pieces.  Creating a haunting and synth heavy sound with swirling vocalization, like a chorus of tormented souls, and eerie tones, these tracks feel as though you are stepping into and then back out of a sacred space.  They add a certain depth and otherworldliness and capture Cottrell’s additional album themes of love and loss. 

Amidst the remaining ten tracks are fleeting ambient moments (a warm southern breeze sounding off windchimes hanging from a porch, field recordings of birds cawing as a train horn sounds in the distance) that act as interludes between a few of the songs.  The album paints a picture of Cottrell’s hometown of King George, Virginia—a small town with an unassuming presence where Southern beauty as well as some melancholy and apathy can be experienced.  A track that captures this perfectly is “Family Annihilator” which was also the first single released from Death Folk Country.  The lyrics speak of porch lights keeping demons at bay and summer coming as a deceitful presence.  Cottrell explains that her grandfather who was a farmer had once told her that “if a crop is diseased, you have to burn the whole crop.”  She speaks to “Family Annihilator” acting as “a result of wondering if the whole field must burn today, to save the flowers of tomorrow.”

Dorthia Cottrell

Windhand is one of my favorite bands and I adore Cottrell’s vocals.  Her solo projects are beautiful with a unique and soulful darkness.  Death Folk Country is a work of art and speaks volumes to Cottrell’s creativity and passion.  I feel honored to review this Death Folk Country and hope that Cottrell continues to release solo albums.  She has a sound that is all her own and can be identified in some Windhand songs, showing her personal influence, but an entire album of this darkened twang is a gift.  

— Angela

Death Folk Country is available now on Relapse Records.  For more information on Dorthia Cottrell, visit her Facebook page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s