Gillian Welch's third album, Time (The Revelator), finds the folk vocalist and musician shifting her attention from achingly beautiful mountain ballads to achingly beautiful pop/rock ballads. Regarding this album, Welch states: "As opposed to being little tiny folk songs or traditional songs, they're really tiny rock songs. They're just performed in this acoustic setting. In our heads we went electric without changing instruments." This philosophy is most evident in songs like "I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll" and "Elvis Presley Blues," with her longtime collaborator David Rawlings accompanying her on Louvin-esque high harmonies and vintage guitar.
Fans of the duo's neo-old-timey sound will be happy to hear a few of their familiar, intimate dust bowl folk songs peering through the fence posts. The banjo-driven "My First Lover" could've been recorded on Alan Lomax's back porch, while the title track aches and moans along with the best of her two previous albums. Rawlings' production on the album remains warm and intimate throughout, capturing the subtleties of the acoustic instruments and earthy harmonies.
Highlights include the passionate romp "Red Clay Halo," which includes the best elements of time-honored folk stylings and their newfound passion for rock & roll, and the hushed awe that captures the audience in the Ryman Auditorium during the live recording of "I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll." Time (The Revelator) ends with an unprecedented 15-minute track called "I Dream a Highway," which drifts lazily through the album's final moments, sweetly dozing in the current like Huck and Jim's Mississippi River afternoons. Welch and Rawlings are at the top of their form and continue to make the best Americana recordings without resorting to drenching their albums in guest stars, but by writing and performing heartfelt songs that speak with a clear and undeniable honesty.
AllMusic Review by Zac Johnson
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