Displaying a remarkable consistency of vision, Gillian Welch sticks to her guns on her third album, by limiting the sonic palette to the twin acoustic guitars and vocals of herself and partner David Rawlings (and a touch of banjo). With all the hip cred she's built up, especially with her work on the O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU soundtrack, this might have been her big pop move, but Welch plays it admirably straight on TIME (THE REVELATOR). While the melodies and lyrics here do occasionally stretch the boundaries of her willfully anachronistic folk/country style a little, this an even moodier, more intense recording than Welch's previous two. There's a hazy, dreamlike feel to "Revelator," "Dear Someone," and especially the 14-minute, Dylanesque closer "I Dream a Highway," somewhat akin to the plaints of Lucinda Williams's contemporaneous ESSENCE album. Brief respites from all the serious brow-knitting are provided by the ironic, recorded-live "I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll" and the straight-up homage "Elvis Presley Blues," but ultimately this is a dark, murky (and rewarding) trip.
Rolling Stone (8/16/01, pp.102,105) - 3.5 stars out of 5 - "...Gorgeous reinventions of Appalachian sounds, old Anglo influences and haunting themes of remorse and redemption....Welch's voice is slow and forgiving, like molasses..."
Q (11/01, p.130) - 4 out of 5 stars - "...Eerily compelling..."
Uncut (11/01, p.124) - 4 stars out of 5 - "...Stripped-down, honest and raw....It's another understated gem, full of old-fashioned waltzes slowed down to a heartbeat and mournful back-porch ballads of home-spun wisdom..."
Magnet (12-1/02, p.111) - "...The finest folk composition of the 'nuovo secolo'...a rare combination of delivery, storyline and 'melodia'..."
CMJ (8/4/01, p.4) - "...A classic for today and any other day..."
Mojo (Publisher) (p.61) - Ranked #49 in Mojo's "100 Modern Classics" -- "Threading musical and lyrical motifs, her third album is a loose song cycle that repays close and repeated listening."
Mojo (Publisher) (1/02, p.69) - Ranked #4 in Mojo's "Best  Albums of 2001".
Mojo (Publisher) (11/01, p.102) - "...A profoundly good record..."
This CD is a treat, a big step forward for Gillian Welch and her partner, David Rawlings, and easily their best work to date.
For those unfamiliar with Welch, she appeared five years ago with "Revival," a compelling recording that drew its inspiration from such early country acts as the Carter Family. Although a terrific singer and songwriter, Welch's close identification with a 70-year-old musical style threatened to mark her as a one-trick pony, an oldies act with little new to offer. Although this was a possibility, it was also quite unfair, as "Revival" was truly a strong and original work, despite the narrow stylistic borders. Welch's sophomore work, "Hell Among the Yearlings" (1998) demonstrated both greater ambitions and growth as a songwriter. Welch also made significant contributions to the "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack album, one of the surprise hits of the first half of 2001.
"Time (The Revelator)" is a major leap forward. Welch and songwriting partner Rawlings (who backs her throughout on guitar and vocals) have produced their strongest batch of songs to date, some of which are far removed from the Carter Family-influenced style. "Revelator," the haunting opener, is a clear sign of their growth as writers and performers. Other highlights are "Elvis Presley Blues" and the 14-minute epic "I Dream A Highway," which is an astounding accomplishment. The only negative comment I have is that "I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll" is also included, in the same live version, on the recently released "Down From The Mountain" collection, an "O Brother, Where Art Thou" spinoff. Its a great song, though. Welch's beautiful vocals shine throughout, set within the understated but effective instrumental arrangements. This is intelligent and well-executed music that will appeal to fans of both country and folk.
Great vocal work, awesome instrument playing, good song structures, decent use of melody and really meaningful lyrics help to make this one a classic. I reccomend this one to any gillian welch fans, or any fans of country music in general.
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