27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Protective shield of irony lowered. Someone should tell Beck,
By A Customer
This review is from: Revival (Audio CD)
Released in 1996, four years before O Brother Where Art Thou? made her a country music superstar, Gillian Welch's debut album, Revival, came as something of a shock. It's understated production, courtesy of T-Bone Burnett, meant that it struggled to fit into the established late 20th Century country music milieu. This was no Alison Krauss record.
But nor was it Will Oldham. Alt. Country was - and is - thriving as a genre. Over the past three decades, beginning with the Cosmic American Music of Gram Parsons, a new form of country has slowly developed. The style has taken in influences from outside of country - from rock, jazz, noise, you name it - and a new hybrid of good old boys and college punkers has emerged. This album does show signs of those outside influences and, mixed up with the lush twang of a valve amped, vibrato guitar, you'll hear out-of-tune chords and phrasing borrowed more from the Velvet Underground than Bill Monroe. But, bafflingly, Revival leaves a strictly traditional aftertaste.
The simplicity of the recording offset against the contemporary nature of the songs themselves is what gives it this unique duality. The pedal steel guitar - the favoured instrument of country music for the past...oh...50 years - is practically absent from the whole album, Welch instead preferring to conjour up appalachian visions with banjo, acoustic guitar and rasping female/male harmonies. Songs like 'Bar Room Girls' do hark back to country music's past in more than just essence, but generally the structures of the songs are given a free rein. The result is a debut album of exquisite beauty and fragility, cold and deathly in one sense, familiar and warm in another.