Gillian Welch

I should preface this by saying I think Gillian Welch is a goddess. A good portion of her three-album catalogue of neo-folk/country masterpieces should be encased in gold and fired into deep space. That said, her latest addition is another masterstroke; she includes more slow ballads (minus death themes) marked by her gorgeous, Patsy Cline-meets-Maybelle Carter voice and the mesmerizing guitar work of collaborator and partner-in-harmony David Rawlings.

Recorded at the legendary RCA Studio B in Nashville and released on her own label—on which there are no other artists—this album contains rapturous moments throughout, consisting of lovely melodies and Welch’s inherent talent for instant-classic lyrics (many a reviewer has remarked that her songs often sound like they could be a century old). The daughter of Carol Burnett Show screenwriters, Welch has an uncanny gift for imbuing the simplest, old-timey lyrics with deep insight into the trials of faith. Together, the couple conjures the skeletal structure of beautifully open chords, lending many of the songs here a dreamlike quality few folk artists can reach. From the minor strains of the opening title track to the ethereal harmonies of “Dear Someone” or the haunting period piece based around the Lincoln assassination, “April the 14th part I,” this album is one of the year’s best.

In the middle of these studio jewels comes a tongue-in-cheek live track, "I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll," recorded before an enthusiastic audience at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville (the original home of the Grand Ol’ Opry), as well as a catchy ode to the King, "Elvis Presley Blues." This is no-frills, neo-traditionalist folk genius wedded by the simple bloom of two acoustic guitars and two voices. Highly recommended.