Archive Fun: Gillian Welch

October 10, 2011

Gillian Welch

Gillian Welch grew up in Los Angeles, where her musical parents wrote for the Carol Burnett Show. In the early '90s, she met Dave Rawlings at the Berklee College of music in Boston, while the two were students waiting to audition for the country-band class. As a duo, they have carved out a highly successful career.

"By the Mark" featuring Garrison Keillor
Listen to "By the Mark" »

This song is one of the earliest performances by Gillian and David in the online archive. This performance was recorded in 1999. "By the Mark" is the first gospel song that Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings have written. Garrison stated he remembered "thinking that it sounded like something people had passed on for generations. It sounded like something that had come down through the churches." Gillian said she was sitting around reading hymnals and the thought came to her to write a gospel song. As she stated on the show to much laughter, there are only so many ways it could turn out. As you can hear, the song turned out quite well.

"Someone Like You"

Here is a tender ballad and an incredible performance from 2010. The plaintive wail is perfect for a song that says "take my hand and walk with me because I'm lonely."

"Dear Someone"
Listen to "Dear Someone" »

Gillian Welch is one of the most prolific singer songwriters of this generation. She has a unique way of capturing a mood or feeling. This quality can be observed while listening to her performance of "Dear Someone." The song is a bleak country-folk ballad. Organic and acoustic, it was a perfect companion for a July afternoon in 2005.

"Nobody does it quite like David and Gillian."
        — Garrison Keillor

"Time the Revelator"
Listen to "Time the Revelator" »

This is the title track to Gillian's third full length album. Time The Revelator is listed at #64 on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 greatest albums of the decade. The duo's stripped-down sound is a blend of bluegrass, old-time music and rock-n-roll. Their perfect harmonies are on full display with this song from 2004.

"It's Too Easy" and "Bells of Harlem"
Listen to "It's Too Easy" and "Bells of Harlem" »

Several years ago, guitarist, producer, singer, songwriter Dave Rawlings — well known for his work with Gillian Welch — came up with the notion of stepping out front and recording as Dave Rawlings Machine. "Songcraft as soul-baringly timeless as Twenties Delta blues," was Rolling Stone magazine's four-star assessment. Dave and Gillian are joined by Morgan Jahnig, Ketch Secor and William Watson for this performance.


It's a testament to one's songwriting ability when other singers or groups choose to cover one of your songs. The work and words of Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings have been key to the music of A Prairie Home Companion, whether performed by them or others. Here are a few examples of their songs as performed by others on live broadcasts of A Prairie Home Companion:

"Wayside (Back in Time)" by The Punch Brothers

Chris Thile and his most recent group The Punch Brothers covered this tune in 2009. These five virtuosic musicians have been pushing boundaries as performers, recording artists, composers, interpreters, technicians, and stylists, since they first came together in 2006. That's when they made the album How to Grow a Woman from the Ground, which earned them a Grammy nomination. Suffice it to say, Chris Eldridge (guitar), Paul Kowert (bass), Noam Pikelny (banjo), Chris Thile (mandolin), and Gabe Witcher (fiddle) are stirring things up with their extraordinary sound.

"By the Mark" by Dailey & Vincent

What everyone thought was a one-time recording session back in 2003 led to the launch of Dailey and Vincent, a duo that's taking the bluegrass world by storm. Not that they're newcomers to the scene: Darrin Vincent (bass) spent years with Ricky Skaggs' band, Kentucky Thunder, and with his sister's group, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage; Jamie Dailey (guitar) had a long tenure with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. The group joined A Prairie Home Companion in February of 2009 and delighted the audience with their cover Gillian and David's "By the Mark," which was the groups first #1 bluegrass hit.

"One More Dollar" by The Wailin' Jennys
Listen to "One More Dollar" »

When The Wailin' Jennys first got together in 2002, it was supposed to be a one-time gig. But the collaboration proved such a success that within a few weeks the trio was on tour and people were calling them "a bona fide Canadian sensation." As this performance from 2007 demonstrates, they are still going strong. It is a beautiful cover of Gillian and David's song "One More Dollar." It is a cover that they feature regularly during their live shows and is showcased on the Live at the Mauch Chunk Opera House CD. In Heather Masse's guest interview, she stated that the song was among her favorites. "I really love singing and playing "One More Dollar." It's a beautiful song and feels really natural to sing with the band. It was a song that we arranged quickly and organically and it feels that way when I listen to it on the album."

Gillian and Dave on American Routes
Listen to the segment »

This past week, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were featured on American Routes to discuss their new album The Harrow and The Harvest. The album has received rave reviews since it was released earlier this year. It had been 8 years since Gillian last released a CD. The wait was worth it. The Harrow and The Harvest is an all acoustic affair featuring 10 new songs. The Examiner found the ablum to be "spare, haunting, and infinitely beautiful."

For More Information

For more information about Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings, their tour schedule, appearances and updates, please visit their website.

Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

American Public Media © |   Terms and Conditions   |   Privacy Policy