Top Fifty 26: Gillian Welch – Revival, 1996

[Originally posted May 2011]

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This is a perfect album to bridge/connect my love for old and ‘new’ Country, or to put it another way, the traditional and americana. This album, released in 1996, certainly revived for popular appeal a more niched sound of bluegrass and Appalachian twang, the rural folk of America’s past and perhaps more modern redneck appropriations.

It isn’t difficult to find where that aural anchor grabs and holds: it’s in the taut harmonies of Gillian Welch and partner David Rawlings. There is a vocal rapport in both timing and tone that is sheer perfection, and Rawlings’ guitar work adds a stunning extra dimension in its virtuosity.

There is at times a sombre intensity to the pair’s self-penned songs which is a consequence of meditative gospel lyrics and the live solo recording of these by T-Bone Burnett. Perhaps the best way to encapsulate the overall impact is to describe the music as darkly beautiful, though it does ‘rock’ here and there.

I have seen Gillian Welch and David Rawlings twice, first in Manchester and second in Birmingham, and at that first gig they were supported by Old Crow Medicine Show – a Rawlings project – and they too brought, and still bring, good ol’ Country twang to a modern nuance of virtuoso playing and energy.

Revival has a very strong place in my Top Fifty and is supported by a subsequent body of work that continues to impress and delight.

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