24 November 2011
It will come as no surprise to anyone that this was a brilliant and mesmerising gig from start to finish, an evening to savour.
I'm sure I read an interview where she said that Gillian Welch was the brand so that's why her name is on the CDs, the tickets, the merchandise, in lights, so to speak. But, if this doesn't sound daft, this is a one-name duo – the marvellous Dave Rawlings is equal partner – where each performer blends and supports, twists and turns, nudges and embraces the other lovingly and intensely through every intricate verse, crafted chorus and sublime musical exchange. It was glorious. It would not be an exaggeration to call itperfection.
The songs on this year’s long-awaited CD release, The Harrow And The Harvest were produced after a prolonged fallow song writing period and emerged mainly from a road trip the two of them undertook. What that time on the road yielded was yet another stunning batch of poignant material that embraces roots, blues and bluegrass: modern compositions that sound as if they may have lain undisturbed in a dusty old-time songbook in some farmer’s barnyard.
Underpinned by her exquisite vocals and Rawlings' astonishingly lucid guitar virtuosity, we were enthralled throughout. ‘Tennessee’ and ‘Scarlet Town’ from The Harrow And The Harvest led us into their magical world and a cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ sent us happily on our way home.
In between, new songs and older ones from their first four records piled pleasure upon pleasure. ‘Hard Times’ and ‘Down Along The Dixie Line’ from the latest release do sound as if they’ve been with us for years while ‘Six White Horses’, included hand percussion from Gillian and a nifty little mini barn dance as well that brought huge roars of approval. No-one tires of listening to ‘Orphan Girl’ from Revival, ‘I Want To Sing That Rock and Roll’ from Time (The Revelator) and Soul Journey’s ‘Look At Miss Ohio’ or ‘Elvis Presley Blues’. Each and every one of their 22 songs was a highly polished, meaningful gem, delivered with poise, passion and delicious contentment. In turn, they were received with unashamed gratitude.
Hobby horse moment. While they would sound wonderful playing in a bus shelter, the Armadillo – no-one calls it the Clyde Auditorium – is a dispiriting, antiseptic riverbank venue, which prompted Gillian to observe that she was expecting a "rowdy" crowd like the ones she experienced on previous visits to The Ferry and Barrowland, where admirers stood. She scuffed the toes of her new cowboy boots on some of Glasgow’s cobbled streets, she told us, and it’s a pity she couldn’t have got them roughed up a bit more in a standing venue.
Venue complaints aside, this was an enthralling and quite unforgettable show.