Tag: gillian welch
Wow. Take all your expectations of Gillian Welch’s mournful voice and David Rawlings’s flawless guitar riffs from your favorite albums, whether it be the most recent The Harrow and the Harvest or the now 14 year-old Revival, and sum them all into one balmy evening. If you add a bit more guitar and bit more emotion, as well as interjections from Gillian and David, you just might have what we had the pleasure of experiencing August 3 at the North Carolina Museum of Art.
Fans from all walks of life were pleased– old fans who had been with Gil since the beginning, or new hip 20-somethings who heard them on NPR. There were children with mothers, falling asleep to the lullaby sounds of slower numbers, and curly-topped youngsters bouncing to the banjo lines, and of course, the Rawlings tune “Sweet Tooth“. The brief rain couldn’t put a damper on anyone, not even Gillian and David. They were pleased with the temperature drop and claimed it wasn’t raining, just “really humid”. The rain brought more people to the front, some to dance, others to take cover in the overhang, and more still just to get closer to their folk idols. As a huge Gillian Welch fan, this was probably one of the best shows I’ve been to so far this year. Local artists came out, surely paying homage to one of their influences– I think I saw some members from Kickin’ Grass Band, Mandolin Orange, and Midtown Dickens.
Gillian and David get the award for mixing the new and the old impeccably. The crowd was especially pleased with “Red Clay Halo”, “Caleb Meyer”, and of course, “Orphan Girl” was requested at least a dozen times (though, notably, not performed). As an Ohio native, one of my favorites was “Look at Miss Ohio,” closely followed by one of the encores “Six White Horses”. Their minimalist sound and traditional instrumentation was perfect for this North Carolinian show, providing a sense of belonging when playing “Tear my Stillhouse Down”.
I will admit that I probably cried at least twice during the show, enjoying Welch’s melancholy melodies and bittersweet harmonies of Rawlings. I wanted to quit looking like such a wuss so I started focusing on the precision of David’s guitar. Then I got caught in a predicament– whether to focus on the guitar or the vocals. I was soon comforted by a fellow DJ’s insight; Gillian’s voice and David’s guitar complete each other. Awww.
This was the third of four shows I plan on attending at the North Carolina Museum of Art this summer; the line up has been so amazing. Check out blogs about Bela Fleck, Lucinda Williams, and soon to come, The Carolina Chocolate Drops. As always, if you’re looking for the best in Americana, tune in to Americana, Blues, and Company every Saturday from 10-noon.
Brian Corum, front- man for everyone’s favorite Lonnie Walker, has graciously given us his top song list this week.
“I couldn’t put any kind of order to this list so these are just 10 of my favorite jams right now,” Corum writes.
2. Girls – Lust for Life
“This song is ridiculously catchy and the first line is a guy singing, ‘oh I wish I had a boyfriend’ which I’ve caught myself singing out loud before and in turn have gotten some strange looks from people.”
3. Fleetwood Mac – Not that Funny
“It’s got this weird tone that comes in and out of the mix and I really like the snarl in Buckingham’s vocal delivery.”
4. The Rentals – Sweetness and Tenderness
“I hadn’t really listened to the Rentals much since high school, but I played the album Return of the Rentals the other day while driving and was over-flooded with sweet memories.”
5. Americans in France - Nose Job
“I really like the snotty nose brat aesthetic that this band does so well — and they are local. I got the album Pretzelvania, and I think it’s great. We’re playing together on Sept. 5 at Tir Na Nog too, along with a new band called AntiBubbles. I’m real excited about this show!”
6. Gillian Welch – By the Mark
“The best song about Jesus Christ, ever. So pure, and her voice. I love her voice.”
7. Talking Heads- Animals
“Super paranoia — this song is pretty strange even for the Talking Heads. It’s filled with a bunch of jagged rants about how the animals are laughing at the human condition.”
8. Angelo Badalamenti – The Straight Story Soundtrack
“The Straight Story is one of my favorite David Lynch films. It’s tame compared to a lot of his stuff, but you can still tell Lynch made it. The score fits so great, too.”
9. Magnetic Fields – Kiss Me Like You Mean It
“The line, ‘come here baby and kiss me like you mean it,’ sounds like it should be an old Humphrey Bogart quote.”
10. Cluster – Zum Wohl
“The album Sowiesoso was playing at Schoolkids one day while I was looking around and I ended up buying it instead of everything else. It’s a super warm sounding electronic album, great to work to, and I thank Brad for talking me into buying it.”
In the same vein as La Barba Rossa (because hey, I see the dude every week and it turns out we have similar wacky mindsets), I think it’s high time to get a look at (of all things) religion in Americana music. It’s an undeniable element that in some way has some root in the creation of all these songs. Whether it’s about getting religion, losing religion, changing religion, musing on religion, or losing your girl to religion (you think I’m joking)… one just cannot deny that the presence of a higher power is integral to American music.
One of the first and most obvious places to go looking for religion is in the heart of Americana: the Appalachians. The European immigration to the Appalachia region was in itself from deeply religious stock – think Scottish, Irish, Scots-Irish, English, Welsh. Add to this mix the relative isolation of living in a mountainous region in the 18th century, and you’ve got a class of people who are going to have a strong sense of culture and preservation. History lesson aside, this is still a region where music and religion make their most explosive collide. Take, for instance, the Stanley Brothers. The most familiar example is the song “Angel Band,” though not every song of theirs is so optimistic. There’s an element of darkness and haunting that lurks at the edges of these songs that makes this sort of music so unforgettable.
In the same vein, more modern artists in the mountain music tradition are bound to include at least one song or one reference to religion – usually through a filter of the harsh reality of mortality, or featuring the Americana artist’s other favorite otherworldly being: the Devil. The Devil and Death are the prominent elements of religion that you’re going to find in these updated takes, such as this tune by Gillian Welch.
And then there’s the issue of losing one’s religion, and trust me, the Americana giants were doing it long before Michael Stipe was even born. Sometimes we know why the singers of the songs lost their faith, and sometimes we’re plunked down into the middle of their particular crisis without a frame of reference. In either case, the end result is something vaguely longing and wistful – there is a sense that something is missing even when there’s an outright refusal to go back to the old religion. Johnny Cash, who was known best for shooting a man in Reno just to watch him die, is no different.
Of course, if nothing else, sometimes the entire point of this music is to almost create a new type of religion. In the end many times it’s the songs that’ll change you – why else do you think there are always people who reverently speak of a song that changed their lives or at least gave them some sense of meaning? Americana naturally has this same power. In his biography of Gram Parsons (titled Hickory Wind), Ben Fong-Torres spoke of the times that Gram would sing hallelujah, and if you didn’t have religion before, you were bound to have it after. When a genre has such deeply spiritual origins, it’s not so hard to believe that sentiment.