At first blush, Gillian Welch's new record doesn't sound all that different from her previous two, dominated as it is by the simple, flat pine of Welch's voice melding with partner David Rawlings' distinctive guitar sound.
But it's quickly apparent that there's something different going on here. For one thing, the duo "went electric in their heads," as Welch puts it, and produced "tiny," implied rock songs rather than folk music. Lyrically, there's still the aura of three decades before Welch was born on "Red Clay Halo" and on "Dear Someone," which is reminiscent of "Revival's" "Paper Wings." But the pair also leap forward to the collision between the worlds of country and rock-and-roll on "I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll" and take up the fate of the man responsible for that collision on "Elvis Presley Blues."
More than that, though, there's a recurring preoccupation with time, particularly with human manifestations and refractions of time - memory, recollection, history, dreaming: the came-and-gone memory fragment "My First Lover," the piling up of disastrous events large and small in "April 14th, Part 1" and in its disjointed echo, "Ruination Day, Part 2," the near-inert pace of the culminating "I Dream A Highway." The result is an album that is more allusive and less narrative than what came before it, and that, if harder to penetrate, can be utterly hypnotic in its effect.