WELCH - THE PALAIS, HEPBURN SPRINGS - 13 NOVEMBER 2004
Welch & David Rawlings - The Palais Hepburn Springs
an uncanny quality to the duo called Gillian Welch. It has a lot to do
with something sublime and otherworldly in their combined act that mesmerises
and enchants the most cynical audience.
at the rural venue of The Palais in the main strip of Hepburn Springs
on Saturday 13 November was, I dare say, typical. Reviews written on their
shows during the couple's Australian tour have been universally glowing
and this review is no exception.
off the show at 10.00pm with "Orphan Girl", a song from Gillian
Welch's first album "Revival".
Welch was dressed in a sleeveless grey green dress initially covered
by a leather jacket. The jacket was discarded after the second song.
David Rawlings sported a brown suit and a cowboy hat, his long hair,
tucked behind his ears.
Me a Pallet on Your Floor" was second on the song list followed
by "Elvis Presley Blues".
up her banjo, Gillian related several banjo anecdotes that segued
into "Rock of Ages".
Girls" was next, followed by "My Morphine" one of this
reviewer's favourite Welch songs. Gillian made a comment about yodelling
describing her style as "yodelling at under water speed". A
very apt description and beautifully demonstrated in "My Morphine".
The extraordinary juxtaposition of the song lyrics - a dreamy junky lament
- and the yodelling chorus - is mind blowing.
the evening David Rawlings was not just a pretty face. He provided
harmony vocals and exquisite guitar embellishments to Gillian's
singing and guitar playing. I found myself mesmerised by his playing,
those excruciating moments where he is carried away by the intricacies
of fingering the notes, just barely making it work. Alec Wilkinson
accurately described his playing in a recent New
is a strikingly inventive guitarist. His solos often feature daring
melodic leaps. He uses passing tones as signal elements of a solo
rather than relying on them merely to bridge chord changes, and
there is an obstinate, near-vagrant quality of chromatic drifting
to his playing-of his proceeding with harmonic ideas at a different
pace and perhaps even in a different direction from the song's changes.
He uses double and triple stops and open strings for dramatic effect.
Often, he leaves an open string ringing as a drone against which
he plays a note that conflicts with the chord the drone refers to.
He likes to go as far out on a limb as he can before figuring out
how to get back."
by the same reviewer how he would describe his playing, Rawlings said
that he simply has a fondness for certain notes and he finds ways to play
them. When asked which notes they were, he says "The ghostly ones."
harmonies are unearthly - so pure it's like a vocal symbiosis. Gillian
Welch has a pleasant alto whereas David Rawlings voice sounds at a higher
register. Together, their intertwined voices almost meld into one voice
- they are beautifully suited.
stage they stand a little apart, but each of them moves in elegant
patterns, Welch bowing low over her instrument and gracefully unbending
to sing, Rawlings gently gyrating and swaying as his fingers busy
themselves on the guitar.
describes her songs as "downers" but I find them hauntingly
tunes such as "Look At Miss Ohio" and "I Want to
Sing That Rock And Roll", a slow cover of Bob Dylan's "Billy"
the Pat Garrett
& Billy the Kid" soundtrack and "Red Clay Halo" rounded
off the first session.
interval the duo performed ten more songs from across the repertoire Gillian
Welch has built up in four CDs. David Rawlings sang solo on "I'm
On My Way Back to the Old Home" with Gillian providing harmony vocals.
"One Little Song" Gillian sang solo; simply accompanying herself
on guitar while Rawlings took a break.
were "No One Knows My Name" where we discovered that Gillian
plays a mean harmonica - yet another accomplishment, "Wrecking Ball"
where David Rawlings, in turn, played harmonica. The stark bluegrassy
murder ballad "Caleb Meyer" signalled the end of the show.
applause and a standing ovation drew the twosome back for an encore.
first number was a new unnamed song which sounded wonderful. "Everything
is Free" was next and "I'll Fly Away", popularised
on the "O Brother" soundtrack, was a vain attempt to end
the show a second time.
being compelled by the enthusiastic applause to re-emerge, Gillian
commented that "I'll Fly Away" was Bill Monroe's signature
closing song that always resulted in the crowd going home.
themselves to extending the show they sang two covers - a beautiful version
of Neil Young's "Albuquerque" and a fantastic rendition of J
J Cale's "After Midnight" which made me think that Gillian Welch
and David Rawlings' slow and dreamy covers of other people's songs sound
like definitive versions.
thought, and most of the audience were inclined to agree, that this was
the last encore. However, a persistent, very noisy, table rapping, glass
smashing set of hoons on the a table near the front forced the artists
back to sing a soothing gospel number - "Morning Stars Arising",
a gracious hint that the night was over.
evening it most certainly was, and one of the most engrossing musical
acts I have ever witnessed. Gillian Welch's brand of Americana music is
at once modern and gothic. It harks back to the roots of American music
in a way that celebrates it and yet builds upon it with refreshing new
in Victoria was sold out soon after going on sale. There is every possibility
that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings will return to these shores in the
future. Whatever you do, don't miss them!
Song Listing (CD Title)
1. Orphan Girl (Revival)
2. Make Me A Pallet On Your Floor (Soul Journey)
3. Elvis Presley Blues (Time The Revelator)
4. Rock Of Ages (Hell Among The Yearlings)
5. Barroom Girls (Revival)
6. My Morphine (Hell Among The Yearlings)
7. Look At Miss Ohio (Soul Journey)
8. I Want To Sing That Rock And Roll (Time The Revelator)
9. Billy (Bob Dylan Cover - DVD)
10. Red Clay Halo (Time The Revelator)
1. My First Lover (Time The Revelator)
2. No One Knows My Name (Soul Journey)
3. One Little Song (Soul Journey)
4. Revelator (Time The Revelator)
5. By The Mark (Revival)
6. I'm On My Way Back To The Old Home (DVD)
7. Wrecking Ball (Soul Journey)
8. Caleb Meyer (Hell Among The Yearlings)
1. New Song (Unnamed)
2. Everything Is Free (Time The Revelator)
3. I'll Fly Away (O Brother Soundtrack cover)
1. Albuquerque (Neil Young cover)
2. After Midnight (J J Cale cover)
1. Morning Stars Arising (traditional?)
by Anne Sydenham 2004
The photos were taken by David Trembath 2004
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