REVIEWS

GILLIAN WELCH
Soul Journey [Acony/WEA]

 

For Gillian Welch's fourth album, Soul Journey, the bad reviews have started appearing. But that's really because her standards have been so high. Time (The Revelator, 2001), Hell Among the Yearlings (1998) and Revival (1996) were just classics in the country canon. So Soul Journey is just good, not great. If the first three albums showed Welch bleeding, Soul journey is just a graze.

As Welch admitted in an interview: "This really is the sunniest record I've ever made." A part of this change is explained by the recording process. Instead of intense scrutiny, Welch opted for a more spontaneous approach to the production. Aside from one takes, unplugged performances, Welch also included three tracks where she sings and plays solo (she has never done this before on record). One of these is the gorgeous One Little Song where she pleads to hear a truly original song, where you can find "one little word that ain't been abused a thousand times/In a thousand rhymes."

Another reason is her approach to her songs. It is in the end a nostalgic album, just not a painfully nostalgic one. For example, I Had A Real Good Mother and Father is exactly that. Or the fact that Make Me A Pallet on Your Floor and Lowlands are bluesy country numbers which exist more as singalongs than gut-wrenching tracks.

Still, there's one new classic, I Made a Lovers Prayer, which can easily rival many Bob Dylan or Neil Young love songs. As Welch sings so poignantly: "Help me rise above what I'm thinking of/Just a little more love, just a little more love." - Philip Cheah


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