Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 4 Reviews

Gillian Welch
Arrow Stage
Sat Oct 1, 5:10 p.m.
Reviewed by Mark Hedin

Facing an Arrow Stage audience sizable enough for the main stage, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, armed merely with their acoustic guitars - save for Welch's brief interludes on banjo and harmonica - turned the volume down and the intensity up, and kept the audience at full attention.

With the ocean breezes moving in on this overcast afternoon, they opened with "I Want to Sing that Rock and Roll" from Time the Revelator and followed that with Soul Journey's kick-off, "Look at Miss Ohio."

Welch, dressed in a jacket, skirt and cowboy boots, acknowledged the now-chilly climes. "We gotta warm up the air down here on our guitars. It's happening a little bit at a time," she said before launching into "Elvis Presley Blues," again from "Revelator."

"I think this is why they invented hairspray," she said then, before introducing "my greatest hit." Rawlings, attired in a suit, chimed in, suggesting the song, the oft-covered "Orphan Girl," might yet appear on K-Tel's Appalachian Hits of the Late '90s.

"My First Lover" was next. As she strapped on her harmonica, Welch asked the crowd the difference between a harmonica and a banjo.

A harmonica, she explained, "only sucks every other note. You thought you were getting music, you're getting music AND comedy. Sort of a two-fer."

"No One Knows My Name," from Soul Journey followed, with some robust harp playing, perhaps the loudest single element of the pair's set.

While Rawlings changed a broken string, Welch played another from that album, "One Little Song." "This is the first time I ever put any of my solo performances out for anyone to hear, except for my cats," she said. The audience murmured its appreciation.

Rawlings came back strong, rising to his tip-toes for his passionate solos on his tiny, capo'd guitar on Revelator. For all their energy, the wind occasionally intermingled snippets of Del McCoury's set going on concurrently on the Banjo Stage to the east.

"By the Mark," from their debut, Revival, followed. "I'm gonna make my partner sing one," Welch then announced, and Rawlings rolled out "Big Rock Candy Mountain."

Welch returned to the stage with a new, as-yet-unnamed song that included the lines "what did you want me to be?" "throw me a rope" and "gotta watch my back, now that you turned me around, got me walking backwards into my hometown."

Revelator's "Red Clay Halo" followed. As the pair left the stage, the crowd roared, earning as an encore, the Oh Brother Where Art Thou film-featured gospel tune "I'll Fly Away."

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