Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Ruination Day

I'm a few days late with this, but I didn't want to post about ruination during the octave of Easter, and I thought that to post it on Emancipation Day might seem like the wrong message.

Ruination Day (Part 2) is the second of a two part song on Gillian Welch's album Time (The Revelator), the first part being April 14 (Part 1). This was the day that Lincoln was shot in 1865; the day that the Titanic hit the iceberg in 1912; it was "Black Sunday," the day of the worst Oklahoma dust storm in 1935.

I'm not really sure what Casey Jones has to do with it. He did die in April, but it was later in the month. Maybe it's just the idea that he was moving so fast towards death. You can read the lyrics below the video on the YouTube page. Here's a video of April 14 (Part 1).

The first time I listened to the album Time (The Revelator), I was thinking, "Oh, I'm not going to like this." The whole tone of the album was different from that of Revival which is the only other Gillian Welch album that I am very familiar with. Overall, Revival is more upbeat (musically although not necessarily emotionally). It moves faster and even the songs with sad lyrics are fun to sing. And some of the sadder lyrics have an underlying sense of hope.

Although there are some fast and fun songs on Time, to listen to most of it is to be in a trance. The two songs above are slow and dreamlike. The final song, I Dream a Highway, is a dream, fourteen minutes and 39 seconds of thoughts and images winding sinuously in, over, and around each other, flowing from theme to theme in the way that dreams do, or perhaps more like that half-consciousness that comes right before sleep.

As I said, at first I didn't think I was going to like the album at all, but as I've listened to it 5 or 6 times in the last couple of weeks, I've grown to like it more and more. The slower songs have haunted their way into my affection. They are fairly hopeless, and almost unbearably sad, but undeniably beautiful.

And then there is Elvis Presley Blues with Elvis shaking it like a chorus girl, and a Harlem queen, and a holy roller with his soul at stake. I've never been a great Elvis fan, but I think everyone who grew up in Memphis, as I did, is always aware of him at every turn, and has a sort of affection for him. Everyone has an Elvis story, and this is one.

After hearing Everything is Free, a song about the effect of modern technology on the livelihood of musicians, I felt a bit guilty about embedding the video in this post. But then, someone told me they had bought the album after reading the post, and I remembered that I have bought quite a bit of music after hearing it here, so I figure it's good exposure.

I still do not love this album as much as I love Revival, but maybe in time I will. It's definitely worth listening to several times before making any judgement.



  1. And then, I thought that tax day was the perfectday to talk about ruination.


  2. I haven't heard Time for a long time, but I heard it first, and didn't like Revival quite as well when I heard it. Looking at the track listing for Time now, I'm not sure that I would still feel that way. I think maybe I like my favorite songs on Time best of all, but the albums overall are a pretty even match....mmm...well, no, looking at the track listing of Revival, I do think I prefer Time. Anyway, they're both really fine. Here's where I reviewed Time several years ago. My First Lover is a really dreary song.

  3. Yes, it is dreary. It's too bad that it's the second song on the album.

    I'm really glad I didn't read your 2008 post before I wrote this one. I don't think I could have written anything if I had. I had forgotten that you had written about Time, but now that I remember reading it, I can't believe it was over 4 years ago.

    I think the difference in our preferences is that you listen to listen and I listen to sing. Revival is definitely a better singing album.

  4. My preference is for Revival, not only for the songs but for the sound of the record. It is one of T Bone Burnett's best, I think.

    I am glad you linked to "Everything is Free". That is my favourite song from the Time record. I don't think I ever really understood what it was about until reading this. I suppose I am quite obtuse.

  5. Craig, Sometimes I'll listen to something for a long time before what's being said finally hits me.

    Maclin, To me, the word that best describe My First Lover is mean.

    I don't dislike Red Clay Halo or I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll, but they seem really out of place on that album.