Here’s another from Ms. Welch. I never tire of these songs.
I first came across Gillian via. her involvement in the Coen brothers film, O Brother Where Art Thou. The film, and more particularly the soundtrack album, was my country music epiphany, and from that I’ve gone on to discover and love a whole host of country-related music. But that soundtrack really opened my eye and ears, as I think it did for a lot of others. Gillian was involved in a couple of songs on that record, collaborating with Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris, a combination made in heaven if ever there was one. The soundtrack, masterminded by the ubiquitous T-Bone Burnett, had a particular old-time (the film is set in the 1930s) take on country, and Gillian was custom-made for that job. Despite being born in 1960s New York, and spending much of her life growing up in Los Angeles, her music feels as old as the hills, stripped back, acoustic, shamelessly drawing on the spirit of early 20th century rural American music. As such, her authenticity has been questioned, but in my mind she inhabits the world these songs as fully as anyone. The songs, and the performances (usually with collaborator David Rawlings) ring true, and if you’ve ever seen her in performance you’ll know that these are from the heart.
[To be perfectly honest, that whole emphasis on “authenticity” comes across to me as a narrow and reactionary, almost fascist, view point that fails to recognise the inherent multi-cultural, variety of influences that people come under in their lives, and that regardless of people’s backgrounds these sources can and do connect with people in very real ways. Hugh Barker and Yuval Taylor’s book Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music is a good read on this subject – read some of their (now inactive) blog entries here.]
Anyway. This some comes from Gillian’s 3rd album, Time (The Revelator), which was my introduction proper to Gillian’s music. It’s a languid, slow-burning song, befitting it’s subject matter. Focussing on the somewhat disastrours experience of a somewhat down-at-heel “rock and roll band”, those events get put into some kind of context by reference to a series of historical disasters that coincidently all happened on the same day – April 14th. In 1865 the assassination of Abraham Lincoln (the “Great Emancipator”) by John Wilkes Booth, in 1912 the sinking of the Titanic after striking an iceberg, and in 1935 “Black Sunday” – the worst dust bowl storm ever, resulting in the residents of the region fleeing for other areas (many went to California). And if that is not enough, the album also includes a “(Part 2)” in the song Ruination Day, which continues these themes in a similar bleak style. So no, not the cheeriest of songs! But a great one nonetheless.
So here’s the song sheet. Nothing complicated in the basics here – the song itself is sparse, so take this as a starting point and do what you want with it. Enjoy!