Thursday, January 3, 2013

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings at the MIM!

Gillian Welch and David Rawlings perfoming at the Musical Instrument Museum turned out to be not only worth the trip to Scottsdale, but a sonic and visual feast! Prior to the main course, we strolled the galleries of the MIM, attired in our free headsets, wired to hear the music of the instruments that we were looking at from various regions of the world. This is already an incredible musical experience before we even enter the lovely, acoustically perfect venue in the museum where Gillian Welch and her singing/songwriting partner David Rawlings will perform.
We take our seats in the comfortable and cozy living room-like auditorium. I have seen the duo four times and it always surprises me how powerful they are and how deeply their music touches me.  They have a countrified playing and singing style that seems to gently draw from the Appalachia, Tennessee, or the Deep South, but they have continued to re-contextualize that experience and make it their own.
They walk onto the stage, clad in well-worn cowboy boots and vintage clothing, and begin the show with several selections from their new album "The Harrow and the Harvest", 2011. They are clear and precise in their work, singing some of the saddest songs that you might imagine. There is also humor in their lyrics and the perspective of a well-honed observer that seeks the depth and breadth of what music and words can deliver. They use an array of instruments that includes Gillian on vocals, guitar, banjo, harmonica, hands and feet; David on vocals, harmonica, banjo, guitar, string bass, and optigan.
Gillian and David met at Berklee College of Music in Boston. They pen their own tunes and have been covered by a variety of Bluegrass, Folk Rock, Blues and Pop artists such as Tim O'Brien, Emmy Lou Harris, Joan Baez, Willie Nelson and Solomon Burke. It's been eight years since their last record. 
Other albums at the Pima County Library by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings include "Time" (the revelator), 2001 and their debut album "Revival", 1996.  They also appear on a variety of compilations, singing one tune, including:  "Mean Old Man" (Jerry Lee Lewis), the soundtrack to "Moneyland", "Down the Old Plank Road" (the Chieftains), "Going Driftless" (Greg Brown), "Women of the Heartland", the soundtrack to "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" and "Avalon Blues" a tribute to the music of Mississippi John Hurt. 
You can also download two selections by Gillian and David from Freegal:  "Miners Prayer" from "The Songs of Dwight Yokum", and from "A Tribute to John Hartford" live from Mountain Stage, "In Tall Buildings". 
After travelling the musical world at the MIM, I have to say, when you get right down to it, music of Americana is just as culturally rich as the music of any country on any continent.

DJGumby

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