Lively, Timeless Music at The Bowery Ballroom

June 3rd, 2010

Dave Rawlings Machine – The Bowery Ballroom – June 2, 2010

263863059_ac5204f9ab Dave Rawlings—guitarist, producer and songwriter for artists such as Ryan Adams, Old Crow Medicine Show and his frequent collaborator, Gillian Welch—began the first of a two-show stint at The Bowery Ballroom last night performing as the Dave Rawlings Machine. Though Rawlings has appeared on many different albums in his career, the Dave Rawlings Machine’s recent album, Friend of a Friend, is, surprisingly, the first proper release under his own name, and many of his previous collaborators (including Welch) have come onboard to back him up this time.

“We’re still trying to figure out what the machine does,” said Welch, shortly after taking the stage. “We know that it wears denim,” she said teasingly, giving Rawlings’ wardrobe a once over. Literal meanings aside, the Dave Rawlings Machine’s sound is in line with much of Rawlings’ previous music, with intricate bluegrass guitar melodies, a subtle twang, delicate vocal harmonies and smooth layers of violin softening the edges. Rawlings is an intense, energetic performer, swaying and bouncing with the rhythms of his guitar, tilting its neck up and down as he plucked out intricate solos, and always smiling.

As the band tore through material from Friend of a Friend (“Ruby,” “I Hear Them All,” “Bells of Harlem”), they also incorporated renditions of folk and country classics like “This Land Is Your Land,” “Big Rock Candy Mountain” and “John Henry.” The effortless give and take between the musicians, and especially the proven chemistry between Rawlings and Welch, made for a fluid performance. Given the Dave Rawlings Machine’s musical prowess, it’s tempting to make a bad pun about the band as a “well oiled machine.” Luckily, their lively, timeless style of music deserves much more than an overused pun—and judging by their hearty applause and hollers, last’s nights’ crowd would agree. —Alena Kastin

(Dave Rawlings Machine plays The Bowery Ballroom tonight.)