Published on April 29th, 2014 | by Jon Santiago0
Review: Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, Mighty Fine at the Music Hall
Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings
Charleston Music Hall
Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings had just come to the end of a lovely waltz, the final grace notes drifting out into the full house at the Charleston Music Hall. A moment of something like musical bliss.
“Haven’t played that one in a little while,” said Welch.
With an impish grin, Rawlings noted, “That one sounds almost optimistic compared to most of the other ones.”
“But we’ll take care of that,” said Welch, which got her a knowing laugh from the audience. “That was mostly kind of a blip!”
Welch went on to relate a conversation in which she and Rawlings tried to explain what they do for a living to some new acquaintances. “Oh, you play folk music!”
“Yes,” Welch replied to them. “But kinda on the dark side.” Cue the wicked little grin and regretful wag of the head. “Lotta people die.”
Murder, mayhem, melancholy. Welch and Rawlings’ audience certainly expects no less. And they’ve been waiting to hear more for some time now.
Such was the anticipation that while Welch and Rawlings two-set gig at the Charleston Music Hall may have been a last-minute addition to the Hall’s schedule, seats got snapped up.
Their songs feature everything from Tennessee whiskey to muleskinners. Elvis and Jesus and hard times. The characters here may be down but they’re not entirely out. Most likely, they will have a least a little faith they’ll see things through and if the worst comes to pass, well — they look forward to a glorious reward beyond the pearly gates. Welch and Rawlings know this territory so well, it’s almost as though they stepped out of the pages of an old-timey country hymnal. And when their voices join in harmony (few vocalists complete each other as Welch and Rawlings do) you may be persuaded to believe in a little glory yourself.
Is it any wonder that one of the evening’s highlights was the dirge-like title track from the album Time (The Revelator)? Rawlings went to town with an extra long solo on his vintage 1935 Epiphone Olympic. The song’s woeful tale of misery may have been an odd crowd pleaser, but it garnered the duo huge applause and a standing ovation.
And then there’s the dancing. With Rawlings on banjo and harmonica calling all Appalachians down to the party, Welch did a splendid job kicking up the dust on the Music Hall’s stage.
What the duo does best is stir up emotions. Their take on Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” — a song redolent of Depression-era suffering and hope thinner than the dust blanketing the Plains — rang as true and defiant as that song was meant to be.
And then they can put that all aside, spin around, and wow the crowd, telling them exactly how it’s been “ever since the fire went out” with their closer “Jackson.”
A mighty evening, indeed.
Photos by Jon Santiago.
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