Eight years in the making and definitely worth the wait, this latest roots music collaboration from singer/songwriter Gillian Welch and guitarist David Rawlings uses spare vocal harmonies and simple folk instrumentation (guitar, banjo, and harmonica) to tell powerful stories rendered in lyrical verses heavy with memories and implication. Any one of these ten tunes could have been heard drifting from a front porch in Appalachia a century and a half ago. These dark tales of love, death, abandonment, and separation are timeless yet timely, and Welch’s smoky alto adds just the right amount of mountain mist. Rawlings’ harmonies lurk just beneath her lead vocals, and the resulting interplay between the two voices is subtle, unadorned, and haunting. There’s a stretch of unison in “The Way It Will Be” where it’s nearly impossible to tell the two voices apart. Always a pleasure to hear, Rawlings’ guitar playing stands out in particular on “Scarlet Town,” where it’s so precise and rhythmic that it sounds almost like a hammered dulcimer. Sonics are clean, clear, and uncluttered—perfectly suited to this austere music. All told, a fine follow-up to Welch’s recent collaboration with The Decemberists.