Home' Rhythms Magazine : 2016 Jan-Feb Contents cover
afternoon of their show supporting Buffalo Springfield,
who we could hear doing a sound check as we spoke.
That evening, they completely won over an audience best
described as “mature”, many of whom might never had
heard them before.
This time around we meet at Sound Stage on the afternoon
prior to their appearance in duo format at the Ascend
Amphitheater on a bill with Loretta Lynn, whom I think can
be rightfully described as a legend.
Watching the lavishly attired Lynn from the wings, they
decided that they were totally under-dressed and
immediately made a quick trip home where they changed
into their Nudie suits for what was to be a fabulous show.
Strangely, they did not to play anything from the Dave
Rawlings Machine album, preferring to leave that for a full
band performance as they had at the Americana Awards a
few nights earlier where they played ‘Short Haired Woman
After the radio show
recording, I told
Gillian and David
about my resurrected
Walkman, which I had
brought back to life because
I needed to dub some
interviews from cassette
onto my computer. They
“Wow!” exclaimed David,
“We’ve got one of those in our car. We listen to music on it
all the time.”
“That was a great machine,” said Gillian and we chatted like
nerds about this very old-fashioned piece of technology.
Later, it seemed that the machine we had been discussing
was the perfect analogy for Gillian and David’s music. Old
fashioned, ever reliable, beautiful and timeless. Even the
sepia-toned cover photo on the album looks like it was taken
a century ago.
Nashville Obsolete was recorded at Dave and Gillian’s own
Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville. It contains a minimal
cast of additional musicians that included Paul Kowert from
the Punch Brothers on bass and vocals, Willie Watson on
guitar and vocals and Brittany Haas from Crooked Still on
fiddle – who will all be with the ensemble for the Australian
tour – along with Jordan Tice on mandolin. Dave plays guitar
and mandolin and sings while Gillian adds vocals and plays
guitar and drums. Strings were added at Royal Studios in
Memphis under the guidance of Boo Mitchell, son of the
legendary owner of the studios the late Willie Mitchell who
made so many great recordings there with Al Green.
The obvious difference between this and a Gillian Welch
album is that Dave assumes the lead vocals; in many ways
it is like the Lennon-McCartney partnership in that the two
are inextricably linked. In fact, they are so close that during
the interview they will often finish each other’s sentences or
thoughts. It is uncanny.
A few days before our conversation Welch and Rawlings
were given a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting at
the Americana Awards, which seemed a little odd for a duo
that still has decades ahead.
“We didn’t know if it was a subtle way of telling us we should
stop,” laughs David when I mention this and the fact that the
latest album is only their seventh album together.
“It’s funny,” he adds. “With the earliest records that Gillian
made, we were sort of more on a roll and after that we
became independent and we weren’t on a record label
anymore, but had started our own label and built our own
recording studio, we started taking all of the other jobs that
it used to be that in the music industry other people did.
“When you compound doing all those jobs with also touring
the world or certainly touring for years at a time, I think
that that has slowed down music production in everyone’s
sphere or in most people’s spheres who are independent.
“It used to be, I suppose, you finished a record and there
had been an art department who were working on the cover
and a press department that were working on these things
and you handed it in and they said, ‘Okay, you’re going to go
play fourteen shows and then you’re going to start writing
songs again’. That hasn’t been the world of music for quite a
while and also we just write
“ There is some trade-off
for it,” says Gillian. “Even
through all the changes that
happened when we started
our own label, we do have
more artistic control. In fact,
you couldn’t have more
artistic control than we have
over our records and every
photograph that goes onto
the album package and the whole deal.”
“I’m really excited about this new Dave Rawlings Machine
record,” says Gillian. “It’s kind of the first Dave Rawlings
Machine record that we made the way we make Gillian
Welch records. In other words, it is technically Dave’s second
record: A Friend Of A Friend, and now Nashville Obsolete.
But A Friend Of A Friend was almost more of a collection
of songs that Dave had penned with myself but with other
writers as well, with Ketch Secor from the Old Crow Medicine
Show, with Ryan Adams. It was ... What did you say, Dave? It
was like a greatest hits...”
“For a bunch of records that never got made,” laughs David,
“and not even Greatest Hits because it was good, but it had
that flavour of a compilation, just some things that have been
played over the years and this record has more of a cohesive
feel. It was a written in a focused period of time and seems
to address the themes that are within one song and flow into
another song and, hopefully, it has some continuity there
that people will enjoy.”
I point out that the new album is a lot sparser than the last
David Rawlings record.
“Right. That’s true,” says David while Gillian adds, “That’s
kind of more to our taste. It is closer to what we do most of
the time and yet, one of the great things about putting out
records as the Dave Rawlings Machine is it affords us the
chance to do different things.”
“Have different sorts of arrangements,” says David while
Gillian finishes his sentence with, “strings, for instance.”
“Right, yeah, we put some strings on this,” continues David.
“We were thinking initially to just do it as a trio record with
Paul Kowert playing bass and started out recording that way
and then gradually found some of the songs called for a little
more sweetening, sort of surround the thing that is my voice.
Yeah, that’s where we ended up.”
“The whole music industry
is in a precariously obsolete
position right now in a way.”
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