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Album Review: Boots No 1: The Official Revival Bootleg by Gillian Welch
Great, Based on 5 Critics
Exclaim - 90 Based on rating 9/10
It's coming on Christmas, and no doubt the shelves are stocked with deluxe this, complete box set that; but Gillian Welch's Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg is something different.At times it almost feels like you're listening to a collection compiled for the Smithsonian, yet that's not right either, because Boots is hardly field recordings. It contains outtakes, demos and, in one case, an early morning live radio broadcast.
Gillian Welch’s 1996 debut, Revival, is one of the era’s most influential albums, its retro stylings and bleak evocations of the dust bowl era marking the transition from alt-country to Americana. Welch’s revivalism was no Carter Family copyism; here was a startlingly good songwriter who could put you in the place of a barroom girl or mountain moonshiner with a few piercing images. David Rawlings’s impeccable picking and harmonies sealed the deal.
When Gillian Welch released her debut album, Revival, in 1996, plenty of listeners and critics were taken aback by her strikingly accomplished re-creation of the sound and mindset of country music of the '20s and '30s, as if she'd miraculously stepped out of Harry Smith's Anthology of American Folk Music into Nashville in the late 20th century. It soon became common knowledge that Welch was born in New York City and had attended the Berklee School of Music, leading many to question the sincerity of the artist and the validity of the work. Twenty years later, Welch has released Boots No.
“If any of y’all wanna give me shit about my twang, you can just do it,” Gillian Welch once told a chatty San Francisco crowd in 1994. It was two years before Welch would release her debut Revival, but the California-bred daughter of two entertainers was already anticipating the skepticism that would greet her when she rose to prominence in the mid-to-late ’90s singing about destitute coal miners and Depression-era whiskey runners with an unsettling familiarity for someone born in New York City, raised in Los Angeles, and who found their lifetime musical partner at a conservatory in Boston. In 1994, Welch’s repertoire consisted largely of a number of songs that would never find their way onto a record, a handful of traditional tunes, and some John Prine covers.
Let’s begin with the basic facts: Gillian Welch is a person, but she is also a founding member of a two-person band called “Gillian Welch”, along with her partner Dave Rawlings. The duo just released a set of demos from their debut album, Revival, to celebrate its 20th anniversary. The 21-track album includes alternate versions of all ten cuts from the original record, eight previously unreleased songs, and a few miscellaneous tunes from the past.