Monday, February 16, 2009

"THROW ME A ROPE"- Gillian Welch And David Rawlings

In 1996, Gillian Welch released her debut recording, the T-Bone Burnett produced "Revival," and just like that, she had secured a spot as one of the great singer-songwriters of her generation. Born in New York City and not the Appalachians as her songs and sound might imply, Welch along with guitarist and partner in everything David Rawlings, toured extensively, and over the next 7 years released 3 more brilliant albums, "Hell Among The Yearlings," "Time (The Revelator)" and "Soul Journey." The chemistry between Welch and Rawlings, with their similar voices and even their looks when the light is just right, is both frightening and beautiful.

I fell in love with Welch & Rawlings. Rawlings guitar playing which can be a bit clunky, is hypnotic, not unlike the great Richard Thompson, though Thompson is never clunky. Their vocal harmonies are so spot on, it's often difficult to tell who is actually singing. It's as if they are the same person. Then of course, there are the songs. For me, "Elvis Presley Blues" from "Time (The Revelator)" rivals any song that one would place in the list of "all time greatest songs."

But it was 2003, when I first heard "Throw Me A Rope." It was at a performance at NYC's Town Hall. Welch introduced it as a new song, still unrecorded, and at the time, still without a title. (I've also heard it referred to as "The Way It Will Be.") At the songs conclusion, the audience was frozen. When the song was over, it was as if we were jolted by some indescribable force. Our arms were too heavy to lift and applaud. There was one collective gasp, then some whoops and hollers and finally, as if this force just passed through us, the clapping and standing "O" began.

It has been 6 years since I first heard "Throw Me A Rope," and just as long since Gillian Welch has released a new record. I heard from a friend of a friend that Welch just couldn't write anymore after that song. She continued to play it live at various festivals, but still no recording. The song is stunning. I just hope it wasn't her last gasp.


Michael Moore said...

Happy to see this video in better condition on the Web. However, I gotta take exception to your critique of Rawlings' guitar work. Clunky? Please. Listen a little more closely. I'm a guitarist. I'm clunky. He's a genius.

Sal Nunziato said...

I did say "can be a bit clunky," and did say he was "hypnotic.