Gillian Welch went for a simple sound with her Nashville-inspired new record.“If what you are interested in is beautiful-sounding, intimate, acoustic music, this might be up your alley,” says singer-songwriter Gillian Welch about her fifth full-length album, The Harrow & The Harvest (Acony Records, $15).
Welch and her musical partner of 15-plus years, David Rawlings, hunkered down for five weeks in their recently remodeled Nashville studio and emerged with 10 gorgeous tracks of acoustic-based Americana. The songs are refreshing in their simplicity. “It’s the most basic analog recording,” Welch says. “It couldn’t get more stripped down. There’s no drums, there’s no bass, there are no electric instruments. The entire record is only the sounds that we two people can make at one time.”
Cut live and spontaneously, with the first or second take often becoming the version heard on the record, the album’s delicate songs like “The Way It Will Be,” “Down Along the Dixie Line” and the banjo-backed “Six White Horses” are full of Southern themes inspired by Welch’s time spent living in Nashville. “My hope is that it’ll be this beautiful, restful landscape for people,” she says.
Born in New York City and raised in Los Angeles, Welch settled in Nashville in 1992 after studying at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, where she met Rawlings. And though Welch has collaborated with a number of artists over the years — from Emmylou Harris to Tom Jones to the Decemberists, whom she teamed up with for seven songs on their latest album, The King Is Dead — it’s the music she’s made with Rawlings that continues to fuel her passion. “I feel like we’ve been working toward this record for a long time,” she says. “I don’t think we’ve ever been more in sync.”
Currently on the road, Welch and Rawlings landed the coveted opening slot for the reformed Buffalo Springfield, thanks to admirers Neil Young and Stephen Stills. There’s also a planned Austin City Limits taping (Welch’s third) next month, where she’ll once again collaborate with the Decemberists. “I’m really flattered,” she says about the ACL gig. “For Austin City Limits to have you on three times says something.”