You're lookin' at country ... sort of 

Gillian Welch brings unique folk sounds to 32 Bleu

click to enlarge Cow punk, indie-folk, alt-country  whatever you call - her, were lucky to have Gillian Welch in the Springs.
  • Cow punk, indie-folk, alt-country whatever you call her, were lucky to have Gillian Welch in the Springs.

There are two countries in country music these days. One is populated by the likes of Toby Keith, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Alan Jackson. It churns out multiplatinum, radio-friendly albums with butt-kicking jingoistic hits like "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)." It sports tight-fitting Wrangler jeans, snakeskin boots, unscuffed Stetson lids and well-manicured goatees. It says things like "Cowboy up!" and "These colors don't run." It drives monster trucks over piles of burning Dixie Chicks CDs.

The other country is populated by the descendants of The Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash, Ralph Stanley, Dolly Parton and Willie Nelson. It churns out classic, revelatory and spooky songs like "No Depression," "Your Cheatin' Heart," "The Man in Black," "I Will Always Love You" and "Pancho and Lefty." It sports black, anomalous chest protrusions, male braids and bad beards. It says things like "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" and "dee-o-lady-oh." It drives railroad spikes through convention. It's from the country but, nowadays at least, often winds up on the stereos of urbanites, those who romanticize some long-gone idea of the country and/or people who really like O Brother, Where Art Thou?

Sure, these are sweeping generalizations, but country/bluegrass/folk chanteuse Gillian Welch definitely falls somewhere near the latter category, except for the fact that she born in New York City and then grew up in Los Angeles with parents who wrote music for The Carol Burnett Show. And to top it all off, she was discovered (after she attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston) while playing a gig in Nashville by good ol' T Bone Burnett, who became her producer and put her on his Grammy Award-winning soundtrack to O Brother. It doesn't get any more meta-country than that.

With the release of her first album, Revival, in 1996, Welch joined the ranks of a booming alternative country (alt-country) movement th