gillian welch – time (the revelator)

i’m not sure i thought i would ever love this as much as i do. i had somehow seen the film clip for revelator guest programmed on rage. the vid’s not spectacular or anything, but it does make you focus on the music itself. in some ways it’s not that different from last night, sam amidon, but for the originality of her work (which carries a lot more, somehow).

this album is bookended with the two most beautiful songs. gillian’s voice is enviable. i know that if i like her music, people would say i should explore the history of such performance, probably starting with emmylou harris (if only by her own reference). it may surprise to reveal that the evolution of music doesn’t interest me as any kind of credibility-generating intellectual pursuit (in fact, i can’t stand bob dylan). i love it when i love music out of context.

to this end, i can also justify the more country elements of this album. by which it’s the arrangements, performance, lyrical content. out of all the albums in the collection, this probably hits closest to that mark. and that doesn’t bother me. i mean, for some of the most beautifully eloquent acoustic guitar, listen to the whole of everything is free.

aside from the start and finish, revelator and i dream a highway (i think the best road song in the collection), the connection between april the 14th part 1 and ruination day part 2 as two ways of telling the titanic story (and others interwoven) has a remarkable effect without being even remotely histrionic. and in i dream a highway, there’s clear reference to the descent of johnny cash into his early problems. she obviously cares more about the history of the music and the tales she performs than i do (cf. elvis presley blues).

to characterise the two best songs, and why they are so phenomenal, it returns to simplicity and fantastic rambling stories that have elements that you pick up at different points in your own life. i wonder if revelator is a kind of introspection of her own, about where she sits in the physical and musical landscape. i sometimes feel like singing the first verse out loud to people i pass every day, knowing what she means about being a kind of human traitor, like i don’t belong:

darlin remember when you come to me
i’m the pretender and not what i’m supposed to be
but who could know if i’m a traitor?
time’s a revelator

for i dream a highway, the irregularly repeated chorus invokes gorgeous images of endless road stretched out in front, slowly trying to reach your lover so far away (another actual experience i’ve enjoyed):

oh i dream a highway back to you love
a winding ribbon with a band of gold
a silver vision come and rest my soul

[with variations on the last part]

and perhaps one of my favourite verses in my whole collection comes from this song:

i’m an indisguisable shade of twilight
any second now i’m gonna turn myself on
in the blue display of the cool cathode ray
i dream a highway back to you

where you are from does not make you entirely who you are. and some people can just convey stunning realism with little effort, no matter where they are or where they’re going.


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