My love for American roots music isn’t exactly a secret, be it bluegrass, blues, hillbilly, gospel, folk, or country up to and including the Nashville Sound. In previous pieces I’ve mentioned Doc Watson, Townes Van Zandt, Johnny Cash, L.A.’s soon to be huge Tawny Ellis, Emmylou Harris, and Allison Krauss. Did you hear that sound? It was all those names dropping on my foot.
The latter two, Ms. Emily and Ms. Allison, appeared on the remarkable O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which is to roots music what Saturday Fever is to disco. Harris and Krauss are two of the siren voices luring our antiheroes to their certain doom, lulling them to sleep with “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby.” That third siren’s voice (and half of “I’ll Fly Away’s” harmony) belongs to Gillian Welch.
So that’s where most of you know Gillian Welch from, but that’s far from all that she’s done. Welch, along with collaborator David Rawlings, has a CV longer than Dick Cheney’s list of “missing” hunting companions. Since releasing their first album, Revival (produced by T-Bone Burnett) in 1996, the duo has worked with a staggering list of heavy hitters. On one end of the spectrum they’ve played with legends like Jim Keltner and James Burton, and at the more contemporary end they’ve worked with The Decemberists and Ryan Adams.
But it’s not about the names it’s about the music, and her music cuts close to the bone. I have no doubt that Bill Monroe himself would’ve invited Gillian Welch to a sing along. All five of her albums are must-haves for your playlist. Seriously, take a listen.
I found out today that Gillian Welch is taking another close to the bone performer’s slot at the upcoming Calgary Folk Music Festival. Sinead O’Connor’s ongoing struggle with bipolar disorder led her to cancel all 2012 dates, but Alberta’s loss is Alberta’s gain.
Welch is performing July 28, joining a roster of sixty-eight artists including Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Chris Isaak, Randy Newman, Dan Mangan, Charles Bradley, Iron and Wine, and Beirut. Provided Randy Newman doesn’t make up songs about whatever is in his field of vision, that is a killer bill. (Seriously, Randy, play “Sail Away.” I don’t ask for much.)
If you want to go you better get on the stick. The festival reports that it’s already 60% sold, so go to http://www.calgaryfolkfest.com/ and grab a single day ticket or four-day pass while you can.