Review: ‘Gillian Welch’

Rootsy singer-songwriter Gillian Welch is a study in contrasts: She was raised something of a showbiz brat in West L.A., but her musical heart keeps an authoritative Appalachian beat, and Wednesday at the Troubadour, a club that faces the splendor of Beverly Hills, she and partner David Rawlings played bluegrass and country music as if performing for family and friends on some moonlit rural Kentucky porch.

Rootsy singer-songwriter Gillian Welch is a study in contrasts: She was raised something of a showbiz brat in West L.A., but her musical heart keeps an authoritative Appalachian beat, and Wednesday at the Troubadour, a club that faces the splendor of Beverly Hills, she and partner David Rawlings played bluegrass and country music as if performing for family and friends on some moonlit rural Kentucky porch.

Their voices and acoustic guitars wrapped around each other like reunited lovers and effectively reinforced the subtle depth of their delicate songs.

Otherwise somber tunes — many taken from Welch’s two acclaimed Almo Sounds albums, 1996’s Grammy-nominated “Revival” and the recently issued “Hell Among the Yearlings” — were greeted with whoops and hollers by the adoring crowd, which included Carol Burnett and family, for whom Welch’s parents used to write.

Much of the original material during the two-set concert followed similarly themed and composed folky paths, so it was the exuberance of Rawlings’ performance and the raw talent of Welch that liberated the songs and set them apart from each other.

It is Welch’s exquisite voice, which sounds like a comforting mix of Linda Ronstadt and Allison Kraus, that separates her from the country herd (she and Rawlings moved to Nashville in ’92) and which may well lead to future live engagements at venues with names that end in amphitheater.

Gillian Welch

Troubadour; 450 capacity; $18

Production

Presented by Universal Concerts. Reviewed Aug. 5, 1998.

With

Band: David Rawlings.
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