111215 Dave Rawlings Machine, Burlington, VT

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My good friend and longtime musical partner Doug is absolutely smitten with Gillian Welch and her sideman Dave Rawlings (and vice versa) and one thing I know about Doug is that if he likes a musician they must be good.  

It turns out that Gillian Welch also happens to be the sideman in Dave Rawlings’ band (hence the vice versa), so when they came within striking distance of home me and m’lady joined Doug and h’lady* for a drive down to Burlington, Vermont to see them at Higher Ground.

As per usual we checked in to one of the cheaper brandname hotels across the street from the venue immediately after we had scoured several of the local stores searching for Heady Topper beer before finally (and inevitably) settling on something else – as per usual.

Again, as per usual, we lined up and shivered in the cold waiting way too long to get in to the venue which was (say it with me now: as per usual) as packed as a show worth travelling for would be.

Though Doug had been telling me about these guys for a while I still hadn’t heard much from them – so seldom do I just sit down and listen to new music on the stereo – so I was surprised by everything I heard.

And everything I heard was great!  And while Dave Rawlings is indeed a guitar playing machine and this Gillian Welch sideperson was obviously a fantastic talent, I found my own smittenness running directly towards another sideman altogether, Willie Watson.

Though he’s hardly more than thirty years old Watson looks like he was born two hundred years ago.  His wide prairie hat and his string-tie suit would be enough to make him look like a live black-and-white photograph but when he plays…Every sound he makes sounds like it was recorded on a 78RPM record.  Though his voice is clear, high, and beautiful his exaggerated vibrato almost makes you hear the pop and crackle of an old phonograph player.  The guy sounded positively ancient but he was completely new to me. 

Turns out Willie Watson was in Old Crow Medicine Show.  I guess I should invest some time listening to them one of these days, but to be honest I probably won’t.  There are still Rolling Stones records I haven’t heard yet for crying out loud.  Crazy, I know, but true.

Anyway, the whole show was fantastic.  They encored with truly excellent versions of a couple of songs I knew (China Doll and The Weight) and a nightcap with good friends was just a quick street-crossing away.  The next day we listened to my new Willie Watson CD on the drive home to Ottawa twice.

And once again Doug was proven to have excellent taste in music, as per usual (and don’t say you didn’t know that was coming).

*Doug’s partner’s name is Michelle, she’s a good friend and a wonderful person and certainly belongs to no one.  By referring to her as h’lady I do not mean to imply that she is the property of Doug or anyone else and absolutely no offence is intended.  

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