Volume 92, Issue 12
Wednesday, September 23, 1998
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Dag-nab that Welch girl
Hell Among the Yearlings
It's the sober cover photography that first calls attention to Welch's offering, Hell Among The Yearlings, until the ambiguity of her voice takes over. Welch's voice is hard to place it resides somewhere in the valley between beautiful and annoying. At times she sounds like a folk singer, other times a country singer and at the worst of times, as if her batteries are slowly dying.
Welch also defies lyrical boundaries in this album. It begins with a narrative song dedicated to "Caleb Meyer," a would-be rapist retaliated against by his victim, who slices his throat. From there, Welch's songs touch on farewells, the devil and the mines of East Tennessee a random combination. The standout track "I'm Not Afraid To Die" ends with the verse, "Forget my sins up on the wind, my hobo soul will ride, I'm not afraid to die, I'm not afraid to die" a testament to her lyrical flair.
Welch plays acoustic guitar on eight of the 11 tracks and banjo on the other three, while David Rawlings backs her with vocals and acoustic guitar. This short album's songs are generally slow and mellow, with the exception of "Honey Now," which has the same feel as Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues."
Overall, Gillian Welch has released an album that would not appeal to all musical tastes. However, she does offer something that isn't very common in music today a sound that is distinctly her own.
A Guide To Groovy Lovin'
If Lenny Kravitz were blue and Jamiroquai were yellow, Dag would be green an adequate mixture, but not primary. This lack of originality makes the album accessible after only a few listens but definitely not experimental.
Spacy guitar riffs and solos, coupled with body bobbing bass make A Guide to Groovy Lovin' great for parties or car rides. Do not listen to this album for inspiring lyrics its focus is vocal melodies harmonizing with well-constructed musical patterns.
Apart from a guitar solo which permeates with the pungent odour of The Backstreet Boys' "We've Got it Goin' On," Dag's "Our Love Would be Much Better (If I Gave a Damn About You)" is an upbeat tune which showcases the foot-tapping bass and energetic vocals of Bobby Patterson, and the effective, but not overpowering guitar of Brian Dennis. Strong keyboards and percussion make Dag a tight ensemble band.
"You Make Me Feel" and "Supercollider" contain a degree of good poppy groove, "Righteous (City Pain)" is the most mellow tune on the album and "Sweet Little Lass" is merely lukewarm.
While A Guide To Groovy Lovin' is not an essential album, Dag definitely shows promise. Pop it into the car on a late night road trip it'll keep you awake.
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