Gillian Welch - Soul Journey

Gillian Welch
Soul Journey


First Appeared at The Music Box, November 2003, Volume 10, #11

Written by John Metzger


Over the past few years, Gillian Welch has won over the hearts of folk purists who fell in love with her sophomore effort Hell Among the Yearlings as well as her work on the mega-selling O Brother, Where Art Thou soundtrack. Although they stuck with her through Time (The Revelator) on which she penned what she termed "really tiny rock songs," which were set within the context of back porch, dust bowl ditties, her latest outing Soul Journey seems to have everyone in a snit. Itís not quite the uproar that Bob Dylan faced when he plugged in an electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, but itís a commotion, nonetheless.

For the record, Welch hasnít completely abandoned the folksy fare of her past as evidenced by the bluegrass-tinged No One Knows My Name as well as the presence of a pair of traditional tunes (I Had a Real Good Mother and Father and Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor). The rest of Soul Journey, however, is without a doubt a change of pace for Welch, though itís also a logical extension, a continuation of the ideas that she first explored on Time (The Revelator). The subtleties that have graced her work since her debut are still in place as is her love for soft, slow-rolling melodies that spring from the heart of Appalachia. But for this outing, the rock influence becomes a little bigger, her palette more colorful, and as a result, much of the album sounds like a cross between Lucinda Williams and Neil Young.

Unfortunately, this is somewhat of a mixed blessing because Soul Journey winds up with a transitional ambience, as if Welch is stuck between two worlds and isnít certain how to merge them together. Yet, itís also a looser affair, one that feels more accessible without feeling forced. While itís not a masterpiece, itís a good effort, one that puts an interesting twist on what could have become a tired formula. More importantly, Soul Journey is far better than the mainstream press would lead one to believe. starstarstar Ĺ

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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!


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