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From the Country Standard Time Archives

Welch makes sound of Appalachia come alive

Paradise, Boston, June 30, 1999

By Jeffrey B. Remz

BOSTON - The sounds put across by Gillian Welch and David Rawlings are sad and lonesome. Sure, the subject matter is often of the depressing variety, but that did not make for a downer of an evening either.

Welch, who mines an Appalachian sound with a dose of bluegrass, folk and country thrown into the mix, shines first and foremost with her voice. The Los Angeles native possesses a pretty voice, adding the necessary emotion without overemoting.

Rawlings is an invaluable partner to Welch. The harmonies they produce are simply splendid, and his playing on guitar is exact and powerful without ever overwhelming the song or Welch's voice. Rawlings himself got a chance to sing a song, "Blue Ridge Mountain Blues," a bluegrass number on which he acquitted himself quite well

And lest you think that everything was a downer ("Caleb Meyer," for example, is a song about a murder), Rawlings introduced it by saying, "We wouldn't feel good...(if) we didn't leave you with one murder song. It's part of the bluegrass union."

There were many more moments of humor as well, but the focus really is on the songs whether those written by Welch ("Orphan Girl," recorded by Emmylou Harris, and "Miner's Refrain," were particular highlights) or those written by others (Townes Van Zandt's "White Freight Liner").

The 110-minute show did have its moments of sameness musically, particularly when Welch turned to her more folky side. But before becoming mired, Welch and Rawlings switched gears often enough to leave the 300 enthusiastic fans upbeat about generally downer songs.