The multi-talented Dave Rawlings (best known as Gillian Welch’s record-producing, guitar-playing musical partner) has slipped into the front man’s spotlight with his signature 1935 Epiphone Olympic and a batch of long-lost tunes from various projects.
While the Dave Rawlings Machine started as a psuedo-cover band, it quickly turned into a collective of old friends like Old Crow Medicine Show and new pals Benmont Tench, Karl Himmel and Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes), all of whom appear on A Friend of a Friend.
And though it has Dave and Gillian at the core, don’t confuse with with the records put out under the “Gillian Welch” headline. Friend has the same poetic qualities but it’s less sparse than say, Revival and focuses less on the duo in favor of highlighting the strengths of the supporting cast.
With Old Crow’s strings, songs like To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High) (written with Ryan Adams) and It’s Too Easy are ready for a jamboree.
Invoking memories of the Great Depression are I Hear Them All (also on OCMS’ Big Iron World, Dave’s version is more restrained and reflective, almost Woody Guthrie-esque in the delivery) and How’s About You.
Sweet Tooth, with its gently intertwined vocals and use of the familiar “Salty Dog” melody, is as addictive as the sugar in the song.
Mixed in with the seven originals are two covers: a medley of Conor Oberst’s Method Acting and Neil Young’s Cortez the Killer and Jesse Fuller’s lighthearted Monkey and the Engineer which fulfills the folk music “train song” requirement.
Dave and the rest of the Machine will be taking the record on tour starting Nov. 28 in Athens, Ga.
Download A Friend of a Friend on iTunes