Saturday, January 15, 2011

Album Review: Gillian Welch - Time (The Revelator)

Gillian Welch is someone I'm not very familiar with, but I have been enjoying her third album, 2001's Time (The Revelator). The inclusion of "The Revelator" in the title evokes The Book of Revelations while simultaneously conjuring up visions of old bluesmen.
The actuality of the music is more of a late-night, country-tinged, gentle folk. Opening track Revelator is a downbeat folk tale, over ringing acoustic guitars which drift along in a stately fashion. It's quite jarring when just before the end she sings "leaving the valley, f**king out of sight." There's a great electrified version of this song on Ryan Adams' Destroyer bootleg, but this version is good in its own right.
Much of the rest of the album is quite bluegrass. We get banjo romps (My First Lover), glacial bluegrass (Dear Someone, Elvis Presley Blues), as well as the sparse folky tracks which really grab me. David Rawlings' contribution should also be noted, as he chips on guitar, backing vocals, not to mention co-writer and producer.
April 14th, Part I starts off quite beautifully with gentle acoustic guitar and Gillian Welch's drawling, yearning vocal. It evokes insomnia on a warm summer's night, like most of the material here. Its sister piece, Ruination Day, Part II takes the same lyrical theme in a similarly sparse musical setting.
Everything Is Free is another sparse gem, but I Dream A Highway is another thing entirely. It sounds like a kind of folk mantra, though at 14 and a half minutes it will probably lull you into a stupor. It's better than I make it sound. In fact it's a charming album, not just for ardent bluegrass fans.