It’s been five years since Gillian Welch released a new solo LP, though I guess we’ve been half-satiated with the recent Dave Rawlings Machine album. One hopes that this release is a stopgap collection to both celebrate the 20th anniversary of her debut Revival and reinvigorate her catalogue ahead of a new solo album.
This album collects eight previously unreleased songs and include twenty-one outtakes, alternate versions and mixes, home demos and live radio sessions. Overwhelming these songs show that Welch’s undeniable talent was fully formed when she recorded her debut album. Some songs here didn’t make the cut but would appear on later albums. ‘Red Clay Halo’ for example showed up five years later on Time (The Revelator). Home demos offer up raw and unadorned versions such as ‘Tear My Stillhouse Down’ and a wonderful 4-track take of ‘Orphan Girl’, stripped of the dreamy accompaniment it had on Revival.
Seven albums later (including DRM releases) her fans hang on every new release and flock to her shows. This first in a series of ‘bootleg’ releases, sets the bar high with a lean and well chosen track-listing that gives a wonderful insight into those early songs, in various forms, without being an ‘emptying of the vaults’ exercise in overkill. A fine postscript to a faultless debut.
this review was first published in Rhythms magazine