YESTERDAY I had this story on country/folk duo Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, who perform in LA Thursday night.
One thing I did not have room for that in that article was a long quote given to me by Colin Meloy, who employed the two on The King is Dead, his latest record by the Decemberists. Meloy turns out to be a longtime fan — here’s his entire thought. Thanks to Meloy, whose last Decemberists show for several years we caught in Portland a few weeks back.
I was introduced to Gillian at Rockin’ Rudy’s, a very fine record store in Missoula, MT. I think a friend turned me on to her first record right after it came out. I was immediately smitten. It happens that I also spent the summer of ’97 working in the vineyards of the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the song “One More Dollar” felt particularly auspicious.
Tucker Martine and I were wanting to create a kind of vibe on The King is Dead that we had always loved in old country records — the idea of pairing a male and female vocal really hot in the mix, like every song was a duet. I’d always loved Neil Young’s record, Comes a Time, and was really taken by the fact that the late, great Nicolette Larson sang on nearly every song, lending a tone and tenor to the record that just wouldn’t exist without her voice. We wanted to do something similar with The King is Dead.
Gill and Dave very clearly work in a completely different way than many people I know. I get the feeling for all their love of simplicity and clarity comes from a kind of insanely finicky place. Which is funny; so many of her songs feel so off the cuff, so underthought. But there’s a lot of thinking that goes on, I think, to get to that place.
Like all great artists and musicians, she and Dave, as far as I can tell, are just great lovers of music — of all sorts. Their collective voice tends toward the Americana/country side of things, but their hearts don’t necessarily hew to just one thing. And it all makes perfect sense to me — they are the bridge between Robyn Hitchcock and the Louvin Brothers. And if you think about it, that bridge isn’t necessarily that long.