Gillian Welch's album "Revival" was a revelation. The fact that T Bone Burnett - the ultimate roots rock curator - produced it, gave good reason to give it immediate attention, and insightful songs like "Barroom Girls" and "By the Mark" cemented the news that Welch was truly something special. With "Boots No. 1: The Official Revival Bootleg," Welch has expanded the original 10-track album into a 21-song opus. And while this extensive collection of alternate versions, outtakes, demos and live recordings may verge on the excessive side, it's still worth a listen for sincere Welch fans.
Of the unreleased tracks, an outtake called "455 Rocket" is, perhaps, the set's most unusual recording. A single for Kathy Mattea in 1997, it features a rumbling, rock and roll guitar arrangement and Welch's voice far down in the mix. It's so loud when compared to the tracks that made the album's final cut, it's no surprise this one was left on the cutting room floor. Even so, it's good fun to hear Welch sounding like a Sun Records recording artist for these four minutes of pure joy.
Welch's home demo of "Tear My Stillhouse Down" features a spirited performance. When you start with quality ingredients like this song, it's great even in its most basic format. Welch can be heard counting off the start of "Barroom Girls" recorded for a radio broadcast. If you haven't heard this one for some time, it's well worth the revisit. This portrait of a pitiful girl, trapped in an unfulfilling lifestyle, never fails to tug at your heartstrings.
This bootleg release is also a testament to Burnett's superior production skills. Rather than attempt to saddle Welch with his sonic stamp, it's clear from these tracks that he mostly left arrangements well enough alone. Welch's retro-sounding songs, which contained universal and always-timely truths, needed little extra studio seasoning. Thanks be to Welch for this "Revival."