Boots No. 1 The Official Revival Bootleg by Gillian Welch


I’ve been trying to think how many illegal things I’ve ever done in my life. I suppose the most common way in which I’ve broken the law is to drive over the speed limit. As I’ve got older, I’ve got more cautious and so I’ve tried to stick to the speed limit more than maybe I used to do. There’s a road on the way into Hove where the speed limit is 20 mph and although it gets a bit frustrating to drive so slowly, this is more than compensated by seeing someone in my rear view mirror driving closer and closer to me and getting more impatient. A few years ago, on a TV cricket commentary, Nasser Hussain made a small mistake and his mate, Mike Atherton, was heard to be roaring with laughter in the background. Nasser replied by saying “you can probably hear Atherton laughing at me. He always takes great pleasure in other people’s misfortune”. Sadly, this is sometimes true of me – not anything serious – but I have to admit I get a certain pleasure from someone being frustrated at me because I am obeying the law and they wish to break it.

Drinking and driving is maybe more serious than going at 25 mph in a 20 mph area and I have to confess that there have been times when I have driven when I shouldn’t. I am not proud of this, in fact I’m so ashamed of it that I’m considering deleting this paragraph.

I can’t really think of other illegal things I’ve done – I’ve never stolen anything and, if anything, I normally let a server know if they’ve undercharged me in a restaurant. I guess the first time I broke the law was when I sent off for a vinyl bootleg of “The Basement Tapes” by Bob Dylan. Since then I have bought many bootleg Van Morrison tapes. It’s a moot point as to whether buying a bootleg record/tape/CD is illegal. If it is illegal, it’s a minor infringement. It appears to be illegal to sell a bootleg but it’s not clear whether buying one is illegal. It appears that more attention is paid to illegal DVDs. I did buy a bootleg copy of “Let It Be” from a market stall in Cambridge a few years ago.

The word “bootleg” originates from the era of prohibition in the USA when illegal alcohol was concealed inside the legs of tall boots. There is also a difference between a bootleg recording (unreleased material) and counterfeit copies (officially released material which has been copied).

The growth of the bootleg market has encouraged many artists to officially release material that was never originally intended for release. Bob Dylan has a “Bootleg Series” which is currently on Volume 15; some of these albums comprise up to ten CDs so there’s an awful lot of it. The Beatles released their “Anthology” series over twenty years ago.

A few years ago, whilst visiting Paddy in Norwich, he played me “Boots No. 1 The Official Revival Bootleg” which I had never heard. It comprises twenty one tracks including demos of songs that appeared on the album, songs that appeared on later albums, songs that were never released and some live performances.

I was reminded of this by the release of “Boots No 2: The Lost Songs” at the end of July. At the moment this is available via download only so I’m going to wait to see if a physical CD is released. Apparently, she intends to release two further volumes of material to form a 3-CD album.

Two issues need clarification. These albums are by Gillian Welch but, in reality, they are by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. They both sing and they both play guitar. She has an amazingly soulful voice; he plays amazing guitar. She has released five studio albums and he has released three but they both play on all the albums. I’ve recently posted about a download only album called “All The Good Times Are Past And Gone“. The October (!) issue of UNCUT has made this their album of the month. Quite right too.

The official name of this album is Boots No. 1 The Official Revival Bootleg. I’m guessing it’s called “Boots” because of the word “bootleg”. It’s also got the name “Revival” in it because that was the name of her first album. Whereas “Boots No. 1” focuses on unreleased material from the time of her first album, “Boots No. 2” will release material recorded between her third album (“Time (The Revelator)”) in 2001 and her fourth album (“Soul Journey”) in 2003.

The first track on Side One of the original “Revival” album is a song called “Orphan Girl”. This is also the first track on both of the CDs that form this double album. It was written by Gillian Welch and she first recorded it with David Rawlings at home in 1993. A tape of this recording was handed to Emmylou Harris at a festival in North Carolina. She recorded it on her Grammy winning “Wrecking Ball” album of 1995 and this led to Gillian Welch and David Rawlings getting a record contract.

The first person to write a review of their music was Bill Friskics-Warren in “No Depression” and he described Gillian Welch’s singing as “breathlessly austere evocations of rural culture.” In the same way that The Band’s second album is timeless, “Revival” was deliberately recorded (by T-Bone Burnett) to evoke the sound of the 1940s using vintage microphones and singing live without overdubs.

One of the key sounds of their work is the Epiphone archtop that David Rawlings only started playing a few days before the recording sessions. He found it in a friend’s attic. “I just picked it up. It was filthy, and it didn’t have strings,” he says. “You could just see the shape of it under the sawdust.” When Paddy, Joy and I saw them play in Brighton, David Rawlings fell over, unseen by the audience, on his way to the stage. As he landed, he rolled onto his side in order to protect his guitar at the expense of a bruised body. They told us this after the first few songs.

I’ve got (yet another) bootleg album – but it’s official and I’m not dreading a knock at the door. In fact. I’m looking forward to a some loud noises later. Here comes the thunder. Here comes the rain. Soon please – it’s over 30 degrees again.

Published by wilfulsprinter

Music lover

2 thoughts on “Boots No. 1 The Official Revival Bootleg by Gillian Welch

  1. Reminded of ‘Coalminer’s Daughter’ as much because she looks as if she’s lived the turmoil as her voice carries that experience. A bit fierce, jagged, hard-edged? Is that unfair? I don’t get much warmth from over that well-played guitar tho’. Hm.


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