7. Welch's versatility. She writes gospel, blues, bluegrass, classic country, rockabilly and rock 'n' roll. Her subjects include odes to moonshine stills, red clay stains, party dresses, bank robbers, John Henry, Elvis Presley and the Titanic. Surely, her work belongs firmly in Harry Smith territory.
6. Murder ballads. Welch mines the great American folk tradition. Welch's riveting "Caleb Meyer" packs some truly feverish guitar playing from Rawlings and a horrific but miraculous ending into a three-minute tale of horror.
5. David Rawlings. He is, quite simply, one of the finest guitarists I've ever seen fleet, clean, dynamic, sensitive, tasteful and more, much more.
4. "Orphan Girl." I was introduced to Welch through Emmylou Harris' "Wrecking Ball" album. Amongst cuts written by Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young and Lucinda Williams, Welch's was the strongest. Portending great things, Welch's own version trumped Harris' powerful treatment.
3. Welch is topical. Her "Everything Is Free" is a heartbreaking ballad about the plight of recording artists versus Napster, and is the best recorded statement on the issue.
2. Soundtrack success. The "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" soundtrack was in no small part conceived by Welch. While T-Bone Burnett gets all the credit as producer, Welch was Burnett's hand-picked associate producer. Welch suggested songs and artists, and even wrote a number for the soundtrack.
1. Their sound. Gillian Welch is marketed as a single artist, but it is really more accurate to think of her as a duet act. On about 90 percent of their last two albums, the only sounds you hear are Welch and Rawlings, and in concert it's 100 percent that way. They have incredible sense of rhythm and harmony, and theirs is almost a divine interaction. Combining that with the songwriting genius of Welch makes for something truly rare. To witness this in person is nothing short of astonishing. S
Gillian Welch and David Rawlings perform at the Richmond Bluegrass Festival, at the Innsbrook Pavilion, Sunday, Oct. 6, at 3:45 p.m. Event runs from noon to 9 p.m. Other bands performing are Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder with The Whites, Old School Freight Train, Legacy and Jackass Flats. Tickets $15 in advance, $20 at gate. Tickets at Plan 9, Mars Music, 800-594-TIXX or innsbrook.com.
Style Weekly's mission is to provide smart, witty and tenacious coverage of Richmond. Our editorial team strives to reveal Richmond's true identity through unflinching journalism, incisive writing, thoughtful criticism, arresting photography and sophisticated presentation.
We make sense of the news; pursue those in power; explore the city's arts and culture; open windows on provocative ideas; and help readers know Richmond through its people. We give readers the information to make intelligent decisions.