Gillian Welch

Welch and partner David Rawlings continue their minimalist explorations of America’s southern musical traditions with their third CD in five years, but Welch has taken a quantum leap lyrically. These songs reference Elvis and Steve Miller, and link cultural events like the Titanic, the Lincoln assassination and the ’30s migration of the Okies to California. Most astounding is the 14-minute closer “I Dream a Highway.” Played soft and slow with only two guitars, the stream-of-consciousness imagery explores Fizgeraldian themes of dreams, places, identity, restlessness and death, all within the recurring chorus of the highway and the “winding river with a band of gold,” two of country’s most venerable symbols. These 10 songs have a thematic cohesiveness that bridges country, blues and rock without becoming a concept album, with songs that, like so many of Dylan’s, will keep us coming back for years.