Album: Gillian Welch, The Harrow and the Harvest (Acony / Warner)

The good news is that Welch has given up playing the drums.

The four-square blocking which made Soul Journey such a dull yomp has been dispensed with in favour of a deeply subtle musical fundamentalism which trickles, drifts and swirls like moisture in all its forms.

The Harrow...is Americana in its subtlest form: never more than a voice plus two twangy instruments and harmony; new music arising from old mud as quietly as fog and as edgelessly. The songs? There is nothing here to outreach Time (The Revelator), but as "Dark Turn of Mind" and "The Way the Whole Thing Ends" demonstrate so exquisitely, Welch's deepest interest is still in the way cornbread crumbs are just another by-product of real sadness and alienation. It's a brilliant record; probably her best.

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