August 20, 2001 12:00 PM

Gillian Welch (Acony)

Four songs form the heart of this wondrous album, and each is an unexpected revelation. Two of them, “April the 14th Part I” and “Ruination Day Part 2” are about the assassination of President Lincoln. “I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll” is an old-time gospel song; it has nothing to do with the music brought to life by the hero of the next tune, “Elvis Presley Blues.” All 10 songs are written and performed acoustically by Welch and guitarist David Rawlings, who collaborated on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack. And all have a shimmering beauty rarely captured on disc. At her most incandescent, Welch mourns the destruction of a president or eulogizes the delights of the King, here a rock and holy roller who “shook it like a chorus girl/ And he shook it like a Harlem queen.”

Bottom Line: Rhapsody

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