Gillian Welch & David Rawlings | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings 

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Originally seen in Nashville as an up-and-coming songwriter, 26-year-old Gillian Welch has recently gotten just as much praise for her performances with partner/guitarist David Rawlings as she has for her impressive compositions. Trisha Yearwood and Emmylou Harris have already recorded songs by her--"Orphan Girl" on Harris's terrific new album Wrecking Ball is hers--and other heavies like Peter Rowan and Del McCoury plan to do the same. Listening to Welch's all-too-brief demo tape makes it clear that the clamor is deserved. From the bluesy "Pass You By" to the Patsy Cline-esque "Paper Wings," Welch's voice displays an assured command of the material despite the wide stylistic range it covers. And her lyrics convey a rare understated power, especially compared with Nashville's usual obviousness; "Orphan Girl" opens with deceptive simplicity: "I am an orphan / On God's highway / But I'll share my troubles / If you go my way." The melancholy "Barroom Girls" paints an affecting portrait of bored small-town women watching the world whirl by "like the ponies that pass on a carousel ride," while the stomping honky-tonk "Dry Town" wryly laments getting stuck high and dry in a dry town. Without a lick of distracting eclecticism, Welch covers lots of ground, and she does it all with supreme confidence. This gig marks her Chicago debut. Friday, 8 PM, Schubas, 3159 N. Southport; 525-2508.

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