Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
J.R.'s Dickson Street Ballroom,
Fayetteville, Arkansas
(22 November 1998)

When Gillian Welch stepped on stage last Sunday at J.R.'s Dickson Street Ballroom in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the first song she and partner David Rawlings performed was "Tear My Stillhouse Down." She introduced the second song, "Winter's Come and Gone," saying it was "probably the only sunny little number on our new record."

"We wanted to get it out of the way," said Rawlings, "so we can get on with the business at hand."

Welch switched from guitar to banjo for her third song, "Rock of Ages." When they introduced "Paper Wings," she said it was "the first song Dave and I ever sang on The Grand Ol' Opry." Rawlings jumped in, noting, "It remains the only song we've ever sung on The Grand Ol' Opry. Apparently, we could have done two, but we got frightened and ran away. Whisperin' Bill Anderson couldn't catch us ... maybe in his younger days." Next came "The Devil Had A Hold of Me," with Welch back on banjo.

While they were singing "Miner's Refrain" it was amazing to note how quiet it was in the room ... the same room where, just a few weeks before, Robert Earl Keen had played before a more boisterous crowd.

In a nod to the Arkansas folks, the duo performed a very slow rendition of "Tennessee Stud," written by one of the state's favorite sons, the late Jimmie Driftwood. "It's the only song I could think of that had the word Arkansas in it," Rawlings explained. Added Welch: "It's not a completely flattering reference, but at least you're in there." Commenting on the song when it was over, Welch said, "Aha ... that's beautiful," sparking the greatest applause of the night.

The last song before intermission saw Rawlings capo his '35 Epiphone mid-tune (a la David Wilcox). After a surprisingly long (40-minute) break, the second set began with "One Morning" and saw Welch return to the banjo. Then Rawlings said, "Now we're gonna sing one of our more light-hearted and chipper numbers." "They know you're kiddin'," said Welch, before starting "I'm Not Afraid To Die."

After "By The Mark," another big crowd favorite, the pair did "Morphine," which Welch said is "about the slowest yodeling song." "Sort of like Yodeling 101," said Rawlings. "We decided that more yodelling and more banjo was gonna put us on the fast track."

The remainder of the set included "Acony Bell," which Welch called "a little tune that has endeared us to botanists all across the United States." They returned to the stage for two encores ("Orphan Girl" and Townes Van Zandt's "White Freight Liner Blues," then Lefty Frizell's "Long Black Veil," which Welch said was "maybe the first tune that Dave and I ever sang together") before coming onto the floor to visit with the ones that wanted to meet them.

[ by Bill McCloud ]

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