I first heard Gillian Welch two years ago. It was the spring and a new friend put Gillian's "Winter's Come and Gone" as the last track on a mix CD for me. I stepped through a door and into a room as big as the world. I fell in love twice that Spring.
I listened to Gillian when I woke up in the morning, before I fell asleep, and in the shower. I put her on when guests came around and when I was all alone: she was an old standby and a special treat.
The best I can do to describe Gillian's music is to say that it comes from an old well somewhere wayout in the country. There is tall grass, weeds and flowers growing up through a tire, there are train tracks. Sometimes high banjo licks skip along over a driving baseline; sometimes stark guitar chords drift slowly around her voice, and sometimes she rocks.
Since I was given Gillian, I moved away from Portland. I've lived in Vietnam and Morocco and I've been privileged to travel to a lot of places in between. But always there is Gillian. On my ipod, coming out of my little portable speakers, being sung by Emily. Something about her is deeply American. The dirt, mountains, mines, whisky and strong, pained men and women of her songs are solid objects- not symbols- standing out on that big knucklly North American continent. But in that Americanism there is, of course, a sense of rootlessness, of passing-through, of lonely desolation. She squares my homesickness with my wanderlust.
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