Last weekend I was showing a friend David Sedaris's book Me Talk Pretty One Day and found this choice, perfectly awful excerpt about the author's childhood speech therapist: "Here was a person for whom the word pen had two syllables. Her people undoubtedly drank from clay jugs and hollered for Paw when the vittles were ready -- so who was she to advise me on anything?"
Since laughing again at that self-deprecating excerpt, I've had time to reconsider. These are also the people of Gillian Welch's mountainous South, revealed on Revival, Hell Among the Yearlings and now, Time (The Revelator). Her reedy twang and revival-tent lyrics bring to mind a long-vanished time, and the simple accompaniment by Welch's partner, collaborator and producer David Rawlings make this her most introspective album yet. A deep and ruminative intelligence pervades Time (The Revelator), which was recorded at the historic RCA Studio B in Nashville, a presence that hovers especially on "I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll" and "Elvis Presley Blues." Other songs seem to seep up from that twilight moment when the shadows lengthen on the porch and the cemetery is full of the sound of crickets. The album's closer, "I Dream a Highway," is one such quietly gorgeous melancholy number, which at 14 minutes feels like a long, lonely but utterly necessary drive down a deserted highway.