Gillian Welch - Modern Americana At Its Finest

Posted by Miss Ess, October 6, 2007 05:03pm | Post a Comment
Since I have to work this weekend, I am not sure whether or not I am going to make it to the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival here in Golden Gate Park, which is sad. 

There are always a myriad of performers that I am excited about, but the one act I like to see consistently every year at the festival is Gillian Welch.  Gillian Welch consists of (duh) Gillian Welch (vocals, banjo, guitar) and David Rawlings (vocals and guitar). Rawlings is a phenomenal guitar player, with quick runs and showman's style. Still, he fairly rarely speaks onstage. Maybe that's why the "group" is called Gillian Welch and his name is not included except in liner notes, despite that he has cowritten almost every song on their records. Once I saw them play at The Fillmore and David took lead vocals at one point as they played a fantastic, slow and sad version of "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." I loved how unexpected it was, not just that David was singing, but his song of choice. Check out a similar performance of the song in Nashville:

Did I mention that Gillian Welch's music is fairly pure, old school country? The songs are meant to sound as though they were written ages ago in the old time-y South, when they were actually written within the last 10 years or so by a California girl and a New England guy who have now planted themselves in Nashville. Their style is super Americana-y and my favorite aspect of their songs are the tight harmonies they include in almost every track.  When I hear Gillian and David's songs I am also reminded of how important melodies and hooks are to songwriting, and how much most music these days is lacking either of those elements.

Gillian has had an interesting life. She was adopted at birth and doesn't know her birth parents. She wrote a fantastic song about it called "No One Knows My Name." Check it out here (The footage starts out bad but gets better):

Gillian and David haven't put out a record since 2003's Soul Journey and I find myself wondering what the heck's going on?! It's been ages. All four of their albums are track to track pretty much equally great though, and isn't that refreshing? They have consistently quality song writing. It's hard to pick but if I had to, I'd say my favorite of their records is 2001's Time (The Revelator).

A friend of mine calls Gillian and David's music "the whitest music ever created" but I completely disagree, although I can see how that is an easy conclusion for some to perhaps flippantly come to. I think there is plenty of passion and purpose to what Gillian and David do, and that they are two of the best songwriters working today. 

If it's still Oct 6/7 and you live in the Bay Area and you are reading this, why aren't you out at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival? It's all free! Although by now we have all missed Gillian and David's performance.....I'm sure they wil
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