Sunday, September 4, 2011

I'll Fly Away

In honor of last night's fantastic Gillian Welch show—which featured an electrical malfunction (the lights and A/C at the Pageant both proved unreliable), a wardrobe malfunction (one of the straps of Gillian's dress apparently failed, causing her to disappear off stage for a while, leaving David Rawlings to entertain the crowd with a solo version of "Big Rock Candy Mountain"), and a lyrics malfunction (Rawlings momentarily blanked on the words of the eighth or ninth verse of "Sweet Tooth" before bringing the song to a rollicking close)—here's Alec Wilkinson on the guitar playing of Rawlings, from Wilkinson's 2004 New Yorker profile of the band:

Rawlings is a strikingly inventive guitarist. His solos often feature daring melodic leaps. He uses passing tones as signal elements of a solo rather than relying on them merely to bridge chord changes, and there is an obstinate, near-vagrant quality of chromatic drifting to his playing--of his proceeding with harmonic ideas at a different pace and perhaps even in a different direction from the song's changes. He uses double and triple stops and open strings for dramatic effect. Often, he leaves an open string ringing as a drone against which he plays a note that conflicts with the chord the drone refers to. He likes to go as far out on a limb as he can before figuring out how to get back. In Carrboro, he played a solo that seemed as if it were going to skid right off the pavement and recovered itself only at the very last moment. The crowd applauded the simple audacity, and a woman beside me, clearly familiar with his playing, began laughing and shaking her head. "Of course he ends it there," she said to her companion. "Why wouldn't he?" In the dressing room afterward, I asked Rawlings how he would describe his playing, and he said that he simply has a fondness for certain notes and he finds ways to play them. When I asked which notes they were, he shrugged and said, "The ghostly ones."

1 comment:

aintstudyingyou said...

Wonderful. I haven't been able to get into the new album yet, but I long to see them live.