Tag Archives: David Rawlings


An Evening with David Rawlings (and Friends) at Brooklyn Steel

December 1st, 2017

When the book is written on the all-time great musical couples, the chapter on David Rawlings and Gillian Welch (or is that Gillian Welch and David Rawlings?) will be one to dog-ear and go back to again and again. In fact, the first couple of Americana discovered they had enough great folk in them that putting it out just as Gillian Welch wasn’t enough, and so Dave Rawlings Machine was born, with the first release (stream it below) back in 2009. Now on his third album, Poor David’s Almanack (stream it below), Rawlings (above, performing “Cumberland Gap” live for KMCP FM) has dropped the Machine from his moniker but has actually grown a full band, featuring some of the genre’s truly best musicians sounding as good as ever. Rawlings’s superlative guitar playing and timeless songs are backed by Willie Watson, Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert and, of course, Welch. The group is back on tour with a stop at Brooklyn Steel on Tuesday, a chance to stomp your feet, hoot and holler, and see a pair of all-timers do their thing. —A. Stein | @Neddyo


Gillian Welch Digs Deep at the Beacon Theatre

August 3rd, 2017

Gillian Welch – Beacon Theatre – August 2, 2017

Recently NPR released an article on the Top 150 Albums Made by Women spanning all genres of music from folk, soul, rock, pop and more. Gillian Welch at No. 39 was a particular gem sandwiched between the Staples Singers and Odetta. Welch’s rise came after a resurgence of country-blues thanks to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? and has stood the test of time with her continuous touring. It’s been more than five years since the release of The Harrow and the Harvest, and that milestone perpetuated the singer to tour in support of a special vinyl release. Welch and longtime musical partner David Rawlings rolled into the ornate Beacon Theatre Wednesday evening to regale fans by playing the album in full.

Literally going from the opening track, “Scarlet Town,” to the fittingly conclusive “The Way the Whole Thing Ends,” the pair apologized for the many minor-key songs, but no one in the audience seemed to mind in the least. The singer charmed with her footwork on “Six White Horses,” as her two-step served as percussion for the rollicking number. A short intermission followed the conclusion of the album’s completion, and the duo returned to serenade the room with more woeful ditties, including “Wayside/Back in Time” and the ultimate crowd-pleaser, “Revelator.” Welch’s magic is truly in her partnership with Rawlings, whose mastery of the guitar perfectly phrases her heartbreaking lyrics. The guitarist took center stage to debut a new track from his upcoming release, Poor David’s Almanack, which the two will be touring behind next.

Many of their recordings have been touched by greats like Johnny Cash, who inspired “Dry Town,” and Doc Watson, whom the songstress addressed before performing the traditional “Make Me a Pallet on the Floor” during the encore. Welch saved the best for last with the aching “Orphan Girl,” and Rawlings’s fluttering guitar showcased on “Look at Miss Ohio.” The pair dug deep into their musical roots for the hymnal “I’ll Fly Away” by Albert E. Brumley, which evoked handclaps all the way up to the balcony. To wrap the evening with a proper farewell, the two covered the famed June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash hit “Jackson.” From one timeless country union to another, Welch and Rawlings continue their more-than-two-decade partnership with no end in sight. —Sharlene Chiu




More Than Just a Creative Name

January 24th, 2014

Hard Working Americans – The Bowery Ballroom – January23, 2014

Last night at The Bowery Ballroom was, as frontman Todd Snide mentioned several times, only the second gig the Hard Working Americans had ever played. Second gig together, that is: As individuals, the members—Snider, Dave Schools (Widespread Panic) on bass, Neal Casal (the Cardinals, Chris Robinson Brotherhood) on guitar, Chad Staehly (Great American Taxi’) on keyboards and Duane Trucks on drums—have logged probably closer to a zillion shows, and this kind of pedigree and professionalism made all the difference during show No. 2.

The supergroup primarily played songs off their self-titled debut, released earlier this week, comprised mostly of well-curated covers of the bluesy rock and roll variety. They opened, as the album does, with “Blackland Farmer,” a slow-build take that featured the thick-paste bottom layer of Schools, playing a four-string Fender, and the tasteful electric guitar chops of Casal. With Snider holding court up front, the music felt like what it was: old vets playing dress-up as up-and-comer kids. Each song seemed to unfold into multiple sections, like a sandwich cookie with a tasty substantial cover hiding a creamy, change-of-direction center. “Run a Mile” had the band clicking against a heavy duty bass beat with some counterpoint slide guitar, the whole band building into a slamming coda, each musician comfortably in his element.

Hard Working Americans had a lot of emotions in their arsenal, but they excelled with the dark and moody—as in the highlight, “I Don’t Have a Gun,” with low and slow smoking rock—and the high-energy ecstatic, as in “The Mountain Song” with its gliding cheerful Casal guitar solo and one to match from Staehly on organ, leading into a jam reminiscent of the Grateful Dead’s “I Know You Rider.” Snider was on point all night, seemingly happy to shed his singer-songwriter cloak and just “watch people dance.” Still, the encore brought out the best in him as he sang a great heartfelt version of Drivin’ N Cryin’s “Going Straight to Hell” and matched that with a terrific take on the Bottle Rockets’ “Welfare Music.” As the crowd thinned out, the band returned for a surprising second encore, Snider owning a take on Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’ “Wrecking Ball,” which also closes the album, the remaining audience swaying and singing along. It was pretty clear that the Hard Working Americans wasn’t just a clever name. —A. Stein





Frontier Ruckus Played to Their Strenghts Last Night

December 6th, 2013

Frontier Ruckus – Mercury Lounge – December 5, 2013

Taking the stage at Mercury Lounge last night, Frontier Ruckus went from the “check, check, check” warm up straight into an eerie and wonderful melody featuring acoustic guitar, banjo and a saw without a pause or word. Yes, you read that right, a saw, and actually the guy playing it, Zachary Nichols, went from the saw to the trumpet to the melodica and back to the saw in a matter of a couple of verses. It was that kind of set where lyrics piled upon lyrics, ideas upon ideas and songs upon songs with barely a moment to digest or appreciate. Still, fronted by Matthew Milia, the Michigan quartet worked the details, a phrase here, a bleat of a horn there.

Frontier Ruckus’s sound is an engaging folk—guitar, banjo and harmonies—a swirl of Welch/Rawlings and the Avetts with a lyrical prowess that harkens Clem Snide’s Eef Barzelay or Stephen Malkmus. It’s Milia’s words that kept the audience hanging—this isn’t really sing-along music, but many in the crowd seemed to know every juxtaposed lyric by heart. This is a band that rhymes chirping with usurping, and East Lansing with entrancing without a stutter or hesitation. “Eyelashes” mixed great instrumental interplay with an evocative chorus of “your eyelashes are like needles.” “Dealerships” was an early set high-energy highlight, Milia spitting out word after word like a long Dylan diatribe, leaving the audience dizzy trying to keep up.

Mid-set, Milia broke a string and rushed offstage without comment to fix it, leaving the band in an unexpected lurch. But without a skip in the record, banjo player David Winston Jones waltzed over to Nichols and they jumped right into a haunting instrumental banjo-and-saw duet on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” as if they had planned to all along. Later, a new song, described as taking place in the past and the future, about getting drunk at an enemy’s funeral contained a wonderful lyric about how the “theme song to this sitcom don’t have shit on our best episode.” It was here that Frontier Ruckus had their strength, songs like “Careening Catalog Immemorial,” about finding a stash of porn in a Taco Bell parking lot, Milia and Co. unearthing the poetic in the crass and mundane, the epic in the contemporary everyday, with tasty musical accompaniment and barely a moment left to breathe. —A. Stein

Photos courtesy of Peter Senzamici | petersenzamici.com


Bowery Ballroom Crowd Takes a Seat for the Milk Carton Kids

May 20th, 2013

The Milk Carton Kids – The Bowery Ballroom – May 19, 2013

There were two rare occurrences at The Bowery Ballroom last night. The first was that the venue was set up with seats—a sit-down affair for the Milk Carton Kids. The duo, Kenneth Pattengale and Joey Ryan, played in just a rectangle of light with four microphones onstage, one each for their voices and their guitars. Working largely from material off their new album, The Ash & Clay, the pair proved to be worthy of a seated show, better the audience to sit in hushed awe, savoring the fantastic two-part harmonies and every crisp note from the acoustic guitars.

While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s a two-way street, and if the Milk Carton Kids sound like they’re imitating the bluegrass-y folk of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, it’s just as flattering for the upstarts to be compared favorably to the gold standard of the genre. The music was a delight, early set highlights being the opening “Hope of a Lifetime” and “Honey, Honey,” the latter featuring the first of many great guitar solos from Pattengale, mixing bluegrass, country and old school swing jazz in a mix that could give Rawlings a run for his money. Music wasn’t the only thing they offered, though. For the same price of admission, the full house was treated to a two-man comedy team, a cross between Abbott and Costello and the Smothers Brothers, with Pattengale mostly playing the straight man to Ryan’s understated ramblings.

The banter truly felt like bits, Ryan starting off on one theme and then riffing his way through highbrow humor, drawing real laughter from the crowd. The line between the serious and the not so serious was thin for these guys, and at times nonexistent, like during “Charlie,” when a botched song became an opportunity for a one-liner or two. Still, it was the music itself that had the folks sitting at attention, the perfect blend of harmony and guitar playing in “Michigan” being a personal representative highlight. And that second rare occurrence? It happened right before the Dylan-esque, venue-appropriate encore of “New York”: a well-deserved standing ovation. —A. Stein