CD: Gillian Welch: Soul Journey

(Acony/Warner Music UK)

Not for Gillian Welch Dolly Parton's doe-eyed bubblegum or the Dixie Chicks' rock-chick bluegrass. She strips country back to its spiritual and storytelling roots. Perhaps best known in the UK for her appearances on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, Welch has refined her bare and beautiful songs and on Soul Journey embraces the blues. Loss and loneliness are her closest friends.

Look at Miss Ohio is an understated snapshot of a beauty queen turned bad, the wasted potential and abandoned dreams potent in the chords of the slide guitar. Subtle keyboards add to the nostalgia for Nashville's golden era and her own happier past in Wayside/Back in Time, but Welch is most powerful when it's just her and her acoustic guitar.

I Had a Real Good Mother and Father is devotional, Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor, desperate. In One Little Song, she seeks "one little word that ain't been abused a thousand times", but the tragic quality to her voice turns a lyrically detailed list of possibilities into an extended goodbye.


Betty Clarke

The GuardianTramp

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