90 Second Spin: Gillian Welch’s Old Boots No. 1 revives her debut album Revival.

Dec 6, 2016

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (CRAIG HAVIGHURST)  --  Few artists have ever made a more impactful debut than Gillian Welch did with Revival in 1996. The Los Angeles native and her duet partner David Rawlings absorbed Appalachian folk ideas at a distance and transmuted them into something contemporary and refreshing.

Now, Old Boots No. 1, The Official Revival Bootleg, marks a 20th anniversary opportunity to re-familiarize ourselves with that moment when many of us first heard the Welch/Rawlings sound. Its hallmarks: antique sounding songs, crisp flatpicked guitar and close harmonies that recall the Stanley Brothers.

In an alternate mix of “By The Mark,” we hear one of several Revival songs that became widely covered standards. “Red Clay Halo,” “Tear My Stillhouse Down” and “Orphan Girl” have been recorded by the famous and the obscure. And Old Boots includes songs we only know from other artists that were demoed for Revival but didn’t make the album.

Case in point: “455 Rocket” which was cut first by country star Kathy Mattea. Here we get a sense of the harder rocking juke joint feel Welch and Rawlings would pursue in side projects like The Esquires and today’s Dave Rawlings Machine.

The duo is famous for its meticulous rehearsal and carefully controlled sound. So hearing these sometimes less polished works in progress is a glimpse of the creative process behind a genre-changing masterpiece.