Published On: Wed, Mar 8th, 2017

Review: Gillian Welch – Boots No. 1 The Official Revival Bootleg

20 years after the release of this essential Americana recording, this ‘official bootleg’ offers unreleased tracks and alternate takes.




As if blown down Broadway by a summer Appalachian wind, enveloped in a melancholic hue and wrapped in a dust-stained blanket, you’d be forgiven for thinking Gillian Welch comes from an earlier time – down from the hills to kickstart a roots revival.

Yet, despite looking like she’d been lifted straight off a Gatlinburg porch, Welch arrived in Nashville from LA – Dave Rawlings, her partner, hails from Rhode Island – in search of some kind of rural spiritual awakening after time spent in goth and surf-guitar bands.

It didn’t take long for the pair to make their mark and, with the release of their debut album Revival in 1996, start a musical partnership that still remains as strong, vital and nigh-on essential some 20 years later.

Made up in essence of outtakes, demos, and alternate takes, Boots No.1 is a welcome twin-album celebration of one of Americana’s benchmark recordings. Producer T Bone Burnett’s trademark sound oozes from every pore, and there’s magic afoot from the off.

Orphan Girl, despite the numerous takes, sounds as if sent direct from the heavens, Welch and Rawlings dancing in utter celestial entwinement.

The outtake of Red Clay Halo which eventually ended up on Time (The Revelator), is driven to new heights by some majestic guitar picking that sounds as old as the hills themselves. Bear in mind this song was rejected first time around – go figure…

Some people are just meant for each other, it seems, and By The Mark is a great illustration – it’s one of the album’s true gems, with Welch and Rawlings beautifully locked-in vocally, musically and spiritually. Of the unreleased material, there’s much to love about the moochin’ blues of Georgia Road, but it’s on live favourite Wichita we sense that the pair are playful, cheeky entertainers at heart.

What you get here is not so much a celebration: more a comfy seat in the studio to observe two musicians painstakingly developing their art. Yet, far from uncovering exactly how the magic was achieved these new versions and rarities just add to the mystique.

Stand-out Tracks By The Mark, Orphan Girl, Red Clay Halo

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