Incredibly, Gillian Welch as soon as performed bass in a university goth band. But after an epiphany listening to bluegrass duo the Stanley Brothers, her music and picture have been steeped in a nostalgic pressure of Americana, from her rough-hewn 1996 debut Revival to this collection of reel-to-reel-recorded covers with Dave Rawlings, her long-term musical accomplice. Initially launched on a brief run of CDs after their Nashville studio was destroyed by a twister at the begin of lockdown, this launch is the first to bear each their names.
It’s an odd assortment. Initially, the languorous depth of these 10 songs is overwhelming, the couple’s harmonies fusing collectively right into a constant, glowing sound. This strategy usually wraps these songs up in an obfuscating gauze, nevertheless. Poor Ellen Smith, the story of a lady shot by the coronary heart, sounds glossily stoned. Their tackle Elizabeth Cotten’s Oh Babe It Ain’t No Lie, which needs dying on an outdated girl, loses the authentic’s quicksilver darkness. The Rawlings-led Bob Dylan covers (Señor, Abandoned Love) veer dangerously in direction of the work of an impressionist. When Welch leads, the album breathes.
A canopy of John Prine’s Hello in There, led by her, is enormously transferring, a tune about ageing and loneliness by the musician who died final April, at 73, of Covid-19. “All the news just repeats itself,” Welch sings tenderly, “like some forgotten dream that we’ve both seen.” The pandemic hangs heavy all through, however darkish humour lurks behind the bluegrass title observe and on nation nearer Y’all Come, encouraging neighbours to pop by after they can. You sense powerful occasions have made this pair retreat into a snug, comforting place, however they’re higher stretching at their seams.
Also out this month
Vedan Kolod’s Gorodische (Bandcamp) is a full-throated set of Russian and Siberian traditionals, Tatiana and Valery Naryshkin’s voices raging like storms in opposition to the hurdy gurdy and the gudok. Jon Wilks’s Up the Cut (self-released) explores the fascinating historical past of Birmingham avenue balladry, a thriving Nineteenth-century trade, by easy, deeply affecting voice-and-guitar settings. The Lover’s Ghost and Stowaway are particularly stunning, delicate with love and loss. Patterson Dipper’s Unearthing (self-released) is one other bold, affecting mission, reshaping English classical songs into the people idiom. Patterson’s voice has the strong, sensual heft of Nic Jones or Dick Gaughan, whereas Dipper’s viola d’amore has texture, grit and grace.