Time (The Revelator)
Gillian Welch and partner David Rawlings have been the buzz in roots music circles for some time now, and with their appearance on the O Brother Where Art Thou and Down From the Mountain soundtracks, they are becoming more and more visible. Time, their third album, continues the sparse, quiet sound of 1996’s Revival and Hell Among the Yearlings from 1998. So sparse, in fact, that moments of this record make you think that you’re listening to demos, not final songs. While it is easy to imagine adding another guitar here, a fiddle there, the end result of such tampering wouldn’t make the songs any better, just louder. What the record sounds like is two people seated in folding chairs, heads close together, playing music. Which is most likely what it is. Some moments are uptempo (in a fashion) such as “Red Clay Halo,” others more somber, such as the 14-minute sound poem “I Dream a Highway” that closes the record. Welch harmonizes with herself to good effect, and Rawlings (who seems to handle the trickier guitar stuff) has a stumbling, tuneful sound that works better than first impressions will make you think. The opening cut, “Revelator,” starts with what sounds like a guitar being tuned before cascading into the body of the song. Second time you hear it, it sounds natural and fitting. His guitar parts wander around, beside and over the melody, always returning to the core of the song when needed. The only gripe one can make on this record is that two of its songs (“Dear Someone” and “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll”) appear on the Down From the Mountain soundtrack. It’s likely that fans of one would buy the other, so you end up wishing that this album had two different cuts on it. Oh well, not a major issue. Fans of everything from Wilco to Nanci Griffith are going to find this record wonderful, a quiet delight.