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