Gillian Welch and David Rawlings appear to be traditionalists. Certainly a traditional ambience is present in everything from the pair’s stripped down instrumentation to Rawlings’ countryfied suit and cowboy hat. But the duo threw off any notion of country/folk traditionalism with their encore of “White Rabbit” at Friday night’s Hoyt Sherman Place show.
Seeing Welch and Rawlings brought a whole new context to their music for me. In person, Rawlings’ signature style of guitar playing is thrilling to hear and the pair’s harmonies were spot on, even without using on-stage monitors. Though the duo is known for their slow and even melancholy sound, there’s an energy in the way they perform seamlessly
Highlights of the night included the dynamic version of “Revelator,” in which Rawlings unleashed a solo that built up, holding the listener in suspense until the song’s final verse and the harmonies on “By the Mark.” While a performance of “Tear My Stillhouse Down,” would have been the icing on the cake, the setlist, chalk full of Welch’s best, still made for a great evening of folk music.