I was surprised when I looked back over previous posts here and found that I hadn’t written anything about the amazing duo of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. I first became aware of Gillian Welch with her duet of I’ll Fly Away (with Alison Krauss) in the 2000 film O Brother, Where Art Thou. I later saw her perform with David Rawlings at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, in San Francisco and I was thoroughly hooked.
While Gillian has been more in the foreground, David’s contribution as singer, producer and guitarist extraordinaire make the pair into an inseparable whole. Their music is often quiet and introspective but also displays a full range of emotions. I actually find this performance of Caleb Meyer to be frightening in its intensity.
A new project, The David Rawlings Machine, puts the musical emphasis on David’s voice and songwriting. In this short set for the NPR’s Tiny Desk series, Gillian and David perform 4 songs. The first, I’m on My Way Back to the Old Home by Bill Monroe, actually starts out as their sound-check but turns into a full and thrilling version of an old standard.
The sound geek in me notes that this session was recorded with a single microphone and the “mix” we hear is Gillian and David themselves drawing on more than 15 years of performing together. Note too that David’s instrument of choice is the 1935 Epiphone Odyssey arch-top that he plays in both of these clips.