A Hymn to Signature Sounds
I’m into my third listen of Rawlings’ latest album Poor David’s Almanack streamed here and released on the 11th August.
It is everything we have come to expect from Rawlings as a solo artist and with partner Gillian Welch – the two inseparable and unimaginable as anything other in terms of their musical output. Rawlings does of course get foregrounded vocally on his solo work, a distinctive enough timbre of a vocal that is quite light but always the perfect pairing to Welch’s more renowned singing.
The opening two tracks Midnight Train and Money is the Meat in the Coconut are signature American roots/bluegrass/Appalachian fare from either of these artists, the violin playing of Brittany Haas getting in the latter song, and throughout the album, its own foregrounding. Indeed, Rawlings’ other individual signature – his guitar playing – gets less of a focus in the whole.
The first of two Neil Youngish tracks is third Cumberland Gap, that echo largely in the percussive rhythm, but also the song melody and vocal harmonies which remind of tracks on Everybody Knows the is Nowhere. This is more folk and some elements of rockfolk. It’s fourth Airplane that has the strongest Rawlings/Welch sound, here Rawlings playing those classic guitar lines of his, Haas again providing dominant violin, this time in sweeping strains. It is a slower, beautiful song, Rawlings on solo vocal until Welch joins in the perfect tone that is their tandem voice.
Fifth Lindsey Button is simple and gorgeous, reminding me just a little of The Incredible String Band – with American accents! The sound of good-time Old Crow Medicine Show [who sit in occasionally on the front porch of the album] is presented in sixth Come on Over My House, and then seventh Guitar Man is the other Young-ish track. Is the slow drawl of eighth Yup any fun? Yup.
Penultimate Good God a Woman is more ol’ time country-choric gospel; the album closing on another gospel tinged song Put ‘Em Up Solid: these two offering a light and then solemn tone to end, the band as a whole in glorious unison.
A balanced, wonderful album.