Gillian Welch - Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1
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Boots No. 2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1 (Acony, 2020)

Gillian Welch

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

The 16 tracks contained on Gillian Welch's "Boots No. 1: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1," were recorded between the albums "Time (The Revelator)," and "Soul Journey," which puts them between the years 2001 and 2003. This, then, is after Welch, along with her musical partner (guitarist and producer) David Rawlings, had put out her striking, late '90s albums, "Revival" and "Hell Among the Yearlings," which were followed by 2001's "Soul Journey." These home demos and reel-to-reel recordings will not replace the greatness of Welch's earliest writings; nothing on it betters "Barroom Girls" or "Look at Miss Ohio," to spotlight just two prime examples. Nevertheless, her stockpiled songs retain the same beautiful simplicity that has marked all Welch's work to date.

With that said, though, this work does contain some true gems. The first is "Mighty Good Book," which draws upon Welch's surprising ability to recreate that old-time religion – even though it's doubtful she buys into what some might consider an antiquated American spirituality. Better still, though, is "Strange Isabella," a character study about a troubled soul. Isabella sounds like a lonely woman living far outside the mainstream. She's described as a person that's settled for a difficult, lonesome life. It's beautiful, but sad, and one must wonder why this song didn't land on one of Welch's proper studio albums.

Most of these tracks are stark – especially by today's sonic standards – which is why the banjo-driven, bluegrassy "Little Luli" stands out. It's decidedly instrumented and positively upbeat – at least in comparison to most of what comes before and after it. Also, "Back Turn And Swing" is a verifiable dance tune.

These uncovered songs may not all go to the top of your Gillian Welch playlist, but they all certainly deserve to be right there on that list. Welch just doesn't write any throwaways.

CDs by Gillian Welch

Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg, 2016 The Harrow & the Harvest, 2011

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