Country

Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg (CD)

Gillian Welch's Revival was the album 1996 needed. Even though she was born in New York City and was raised in Los Angeles, the Appalachian sound of a century past became part of her DNA. Despite being thousands of miles away from the sound of barefoot stomping, jug music, soapbox drumming, and hillbilly rock, Gillian Welch absorbed the sound, even to that sassy, iconic country twang that's so associated with her voice. Twenty years later, Welch's sound seems as ageless now as it did in 1996. To commemorate the 20th anniversary of her debut, the outtakes, alternate, and live versions are being reissued as an official bootleg compilation, much like in the vain of Bob Dylan's famous Bootleg Series. Welch's songs are soaked in a sense of American tragedy and joy that might feel more relevant in 2016 than it did twenty years ago. Her original demo of "Orphan Girl" is a plain and simple ballad that brings mist to your eyes. Its sadness feels rawer and more poignant as her solo version lacks the richness of a fully produced track and the complexity of musicians accompanying her. Alternatively, "455 Rocket" marks the influence of rockabilly queens like Wanda Jackson as the track goes for a major key, upbeat rocker that sounds like a perfect 45 single. But the real highlight might be her primitive home demos of tracks like "Tear My Stillhouse Down." You can hear her figuring out her sound somewhere in the flat, mono landscape of a bedroom tape. What folk music is and what authentic folk music should sound like has been a hot debate since the Greenwich Village scene of the '60s, but Gillian Welch keeps traditions of uniquely American music alive and fiery.

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