Gillian Welch Soul Journey

The storm over bluegrass that O Brother Where Art Thou blew through town has passed, and Gillian Welch is still sitting on her porch muttering about the fuss. She remains stalwartly committed to the music she loves — hers was no passing fancy — and with her fourth record, Soul Journey, she’s retreated further into the quietude of acoustic guitar and spare accompaniment. Her first three albums were seriously worked over, intricately constructed explorations of the Appalachian music of the early 20th century; they began with the early traditionalism of 1996’s Revival and culminated in 2001’s Time (The Revelator), which postulated a bridge between bluegrass and rock’n’roll. Soul Journey is the most casual album Welch has made with her long-time playing and writing partner David Rawlings. This porch feel has its appeal, no doubt — it’s a collection that ranges from acoustic, casual takes on traditionals ("Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor,” "I Had A Real Good Mother and Father”), bluegrass-flavoured originals ("No One Knows My Name”) and moves out into the world of electric bass and fuzzed guitars. Soul Journey is probably the slightest of her albums so far — it’s a bar she’s set quite high — but it remains a compelling, quiet conversation with those who’ve been listening all along. (Stony Plain)