When this record came out, I was living in England where Americana was enjoying something of a renaissance in the music papers. Music magazines like Uncut praised this one to the skies. At the time, there was so much music coming at me that I didn’t actually get around to hearing this until much later. By then, Gillian Welch and her collaborator David Rawlings had recorded another album, Soul Journey, which was gaining similar praise. But, in hearing the Time… album, I finally found out what all the fuss was about.
There are musicians and songwriters who do good jobs at presenting songs. But there are others who somehow manage to conjure whole worlds with their material and their performances. The Band is probably the gold standard in this particular department. And I think Gillian Welch is of their school, conjuring up the same sort of misty, sepia-toned world that The Band once did. Her fascination and love for early twentieth century folk music of the Appalachians pours out of every bar of this song, and the rest of the album too. Yet this is not academic music, nor is it about trying to reproduce the style of another artist. There is as much heart here as there is attention to detail.
Among other projects Welch and Rawlings have been involved in is their work with T-Bone Burnette. It was he who discovered the two, and helped them get their record deal. He would subsequently produce their albums Revival and Hell Among the Yearlings. Since the release of those albums, Welch and Rawlings would attract admirers from all corners of the musical landscape looking to collaborate with them, from off-the-wall post-punk songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, to legendary King of Rock n’ Soul Solomon Burke.
Some their most important work with Burnette was their contributions to the very successful O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which brought “old time music” to the mainstream. Along with people like Alison Krauss, and later the Dixie Chicks, Gillian Welch helped many rediscover traditional music and the roots of modern country music, simply by exemplifying the vitality of the music so completely in her own work.
For more information about Gillian Welch and to hear more music, check out the Gillian Welch MySpace page.
And for more fan goodies and news, be sure to sit a spell at the Gillan Welch official website.