Gillian Welch without David Rawlings?
June 9, 2014 7:44 AM   Subscribe

I love Gillian Welch's songs and her voice, but I really dislike David Rawlings' guitar-playing. Are there any substantive recordings of Gillian Welch playing solo, without Rawlings accompanying her?

Don't get me wrong, I think David Rawlings is a skilled guitarist. But something about the way he plays just strikes me as... baroque, frenetic, affectless—and it doesn't mesh well for me with the songs and the way Welch performs them. I've looked and looked but I can't find anything more than a collaboration or two where Welch was performing without Rawlings, and none where she was performing on her own. (Google searches for "gillian welch solo" turn up results for Rawlings' solo work, not hers.)

So I'm hoping there's like an obscure bootleg live show out there where Rawlings got sick at the last moment but Welch was like "THE SHOW MUST GO ON" and decided to perform by herself. Any help, mefites?
posted by aparrish to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
With Allison Krauss singing I'll Fly Away on the O Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack....?
posted by pantarei70 at 9:49 AM on June 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Here's a possible lead to the scenario you're describing.

I saw them at the Beacon a couple of years ago - I guess it would be in 2011 - and think I remember that there were a handful of songs on which Welch played without Rawlings - might be worth seeing if you could track down a description of the setlist for that show/tour.
posted by yarrow at 10:05 AM on June 9, 2014

I believe that Welch and Rawlings view the act as a duo that happens to be named after one of the members, so that's why there's not a lot of Welch without Rawlings. Choice quotes from the New Yorker profile from a decade ago:

Because Welch was intent on establishing herself as a songwriter, and because their arrangement began informally, and Rawlings was playing with other people anyway, she says it didn’t occur to them to name the duet; they performed simply as Gillian Welch.

Almost from the start, people tried to separate them. After about a year, Welch found a manager, Denise Stiff. “I must have had a hundred people say to me, ‘Lose the guitar player,’” Stiff said. Rawlings draws too much attention from Welch, they said. Or, he plays twenty notes where ten will do.

posted by bendybendy at 10:23 AM on June 9, 2014 [3 favorites]

Have you listened to Soul Journey? It's mostly Gillian-Welch-the-duo, but there's a few tracks where they have a full band and a much more country rock sound, which means a lot less of the noodling that irritates you.

In particular maybe try the song "Wrecking Ball," which is almost into mild Neil Young territory.

Also, here's a thing from the Songcatcher soundtrack where they're singing a capella, if you don't mind his harmony singing.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:34 PM on June 9, 2014

You can find tracks of Welch singing with Yo-Yo Ma playing cello. I adore their version of "Simple Gifts."
posted by jadepearl at 2:03 PM on June 9, 2014

Thanks, everyone! I was able to use yarrow's lead to find bootlegs of a few recordings that met my criteria.
posted by aparrish at 6:10 PM on June 10, 2014

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