Gillian Welch, welcome to my short list of favorite female folkies. It's a limited Who's Who dominated by local ladies (Athenians) I adore. Claire Campbell, Leslie Helpert, Kitty Snyder, and Michelle Shocked- say hello to Gillian.

After so much attention and success with the with the Oh Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack naturally, the next step for an artist is to take a Soul Journey. The appropriately titled effort invites us to crowd by the campfire and take a listen to heartfelt rural stories spun by a songwriter that's not quite country and not quite gospel- but most certainly Southern and inspirational.

The 10 song CD offers a mix of original and traditional tunes that are fiercely straight forward- stripped of ambiguity, and almost absolutely- deeply personal. The first track, "Little Miss Ohio," sets the mood- and it's rather moody, with the gentle guitar and haunting dobro serving as the ideal audio backdrop for a girl that "[wants to] do right/but not right now."

"No One Knows My Name" explores the confusion of a lonely girl that traces her roots sadly and honestly... "My dad was passing through/doin' things a man will do/and my mother was just a girl seventeen." The listener gets inside the awkward feelings an orphaned mountain girl has, ".... on a crowded street I see/strange face that looks like me/now and then there's a lonesome thought in my mind."

I'm not sure what's happening on the last track. The album comes to an end rolling down the winding gravel mountain road with blown out bleeding brakes in a beat up Chevy. We're blindsided with "Wrecking Ball." Gillian gets happy and nostalgic, and the band borrows a page from Desire era Dylan. You can here the beer bottle breaking on the dive bar floor. We're somewhere in the hills of Tennessee... gettin' angry... gettin' drunk, and turning back the clock. It's the kinda song Sheryl Crow would make a hit- but I'm glad it's all mine for now.

David Eduardo
JamBase | Athens
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[Published on: 9/11/03]

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