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Soul Journey

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Album Review

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings may, in fact, shock and appall folk purists with their fourth album, Soul Journey. "Are those drums?" "Is that an organ?" "Wait a minute, is that an electric bass?!?" The album uses these musical elements to drive home a living-room, lazy-summertime jam-session feel that hasn't really shown itself on Welch's previous releases. The album's opener, "Look at Miss Ohio," evolves into her toughest rocker since "Pass You By" on her debut, Revival, and the whole album culminates in the relative cacophony of "Wrecking Ball," a drunked-up barroom stumble highlighted by Ketcham Secor's loping fiddle lines and Rawlings' fuzzed-out guitar solo. Between these bookends is a mixed bag of traditional folk songs ("Make Me a Pallet on Your Floor," "I Had a Real Good Mother and Father"), loose blues phrasing ("Lowlands," "No One Knows My Name"), and a number of trademark Welch/Rawlings near-whispered murder ballads and orphan love songs. The thing that shines through most clearly is that the group had a lot of fun making Soul Journey, but that doesn't necessarily translate into a terrific album. Aside from a handful of real solid honest-to-gosh gems, the whole album feels a little too casual and off-the-cuff to stand on equal footing with her other recordings. The choruses often become just repeated phrases over and over again ("Lowlands," "No One Knows My Name," "I Made a Lovers Prayer," and the unfortunate "One Monkey"), and the songwriting seems less developed, as if the initial construction of the song has taken a back seat to the sheer enjoyment of performing it. That being said, it is a wonderful, dusty summertime front-porch album, full of whiskey drawls and sly smiles, floorboard stomps and screen-door creeks. While it does not exactly meet the impeccable standards that her previous three releases set, it is still a fine addition to her discography and well worth listening to all summer long.

Customer Reviews

Just Amazing!!!

Gillian's first records set the listener up to expect simple, intimate production of some of this nation's best original music. "Soul Journey", to my ears, was a surprise. The songs were there...still as beautiful, thought provoking, easily identified-with and direct as ever. The production, however, was a shocker. This album enjoys fuller arrangements...electric bass and (gasp) drums on most every track. The result: somehow an increased sparseness and engaging detachment. Just amazing. If you're a fan of Gillian's music you will be intrigued by the subtle and but surprising and powerful change wrought by the addition of fuller instrumentation. Those new to her music will buy the rest of her albums.


One of the most beautiful collection of songs I have ever heard. Stands along side Lucinda William's "Car Wheels On a Gravel Road" as one of the best folk/country albums of the last 10 years.


I disagree with the i-tunes reviewer above about the merit of this album relative to her others. This album knocked my socks off.


Born: October 2, 1967 in New York, NY

Genre: Singer/Songwriter

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Gillian Welch first appeared on the folk scene as a young singer/songwriter armed with a voice and sensibility far beyond her years, earning widespread acclaim for her deft, evocative resurrection of the musical styles most commonly associated with rural Appalachia of the early 20th century. Welch was born in 1967 in Manhattan and grew up in West Los Angeles, where her parents wrote material for the comedy program The Carol Burnett Show. It was as a child that she became fascinated by bluegrass and...
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