by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings

Gillian Welch - "Look at Miss Ohio" [buy]
Gillian Welch - "Revelator"
John Hartford - "In Tall Buildings" [buy]

Gillian Welch at Montreal's Le National, Tuesday October 25.

Gillian Welch came on stage a little after 8:30 pm. She wore cowboy boots and a skinny dress. Beside her, Dave Rawlings, in cowboy boots and a skinny suit. He held a little acoustic guitar. He wore a hat. Gillian Welch was carrying a guitar as well, a regular one, and each of them stood behind a microphone and then they played one of the best concerts I have ever seen.

A concert can be miraculous in several different ways. It can be about the moment, the particular-place-and-time, the way everyone rallies together during a blackout; it can be because something is happening in the interior of the musician on stage, a private stirring; it can be the hometown comeback or the faraway debut. This concert was a faraway debut - Welch's first time in Montreal - but the show was not miraculous because of this. It was not miraculous because any of these things. Its miraculous-ness, its miracle, came from somewhere else.

Welch and Rawlings sang and played guitar. There was a little banjo, a little harmonica, two perfect minutes when Welch clogged to the side of the stage. That was all. No opener, two sets, three encores. 22 songs, but who's counting. You cannot imagine the warmth, the fragility, the tenderness of these two voices in harmony, united before you, wrote Le Devoir's Sylvain Cormier. No record can give this.

The miracle was this: wonderful songs, beautifully played. Musicians who have that trick of putting soul and want and ragged years into hands, voice, glint of eye. Showmen who raise the house slowly and then bring it down; who show us one treasure and then turn and show us another. They made it seem so simple. Most songs began the same way: turning to one-another, humming and strumming a bar off-mike, then there before us, songing. Welch strummed her guitar, picked her banjo; Rawlings' fingerpicking was filigree, until it wasn't, these decorations suddenly at the centre of the room. On most songs he had a solo, and these solos were whatever he wanted them to be. Short stories, meditations, blues; on "Revelator", the notes he played made the hair stand up on my arms, made my heart shake, heavy as anything I have ever heard, as Godspeed & Low & Neil Young with Crazyhorse, on that little acoustic guitar.

They would sing together, Welch's voice at the front, Rawlings in the edges, like smoke. Cormier is right: this sounds different live than on record. In recordings, Rawlings's singing seems somehow like shading, bolstering, a pretty support. In concert, they seem like one thing. Like the two colours of a mirror.

They played "One More Dollar", clear-eyed, "Red Clay Halo", jubilant, "Rock of Ages", grim and certain, "The Way It Will Be", slow and sad. They played June and Johnny Cash's "Jackson" and a gorgeous cover of John Hartford's "In Tall Buildings". They sang "Look at Miss Ohio" and we all sang along, full throated, without being asked for a thing.

They played so well. That was all they did. So well, they played.

Sometimes a miracle can fit in a small box, a box the size of a dictionary, where you keep your picks and capos.

(Two days later, Welch came down with laryngitis! Get well soon.)



Montreal's CKUT Radio needs your help. 90.3FM is the city's best station, based at McGill but meant for all of us. They play wonderful music and thoughtful conversations, promote community events and activism, and they'll teach anyone how to be a part of radio. It's a tremendous resource and a sort of faraway friend. If you can afford to, please, please, please donate. There are even patron give-aways: beautiful t-shirts, shoulder bags, coffee, vodka, train tickets, and tickets to Black Star or Suoni Per Il Popolo. Do it.

(photo by Mark Seliger)

Posted by Sean at October 27, 2011 6:26 PM

They do play a charming, charming show. I watched them play the Music Center at Strathmore - a room seemingly equal in height and length - an experience Gillian likened to playings inside a birthday cake.

Posted by Matthew at October 28, 2011 9:50 PM

I feel ya. I saw them in San Francisco a few years ago. It all appears so tossed-off, and yet you're right: what a miracle of intimacy.

Posted by Brian at October 28, 2011 9:54 PM

gillian welch is...gillian welch. david rawlings is simply one of the top three guitarists playing today. dr:guitar::victor wooten:bass.
togethjer, whether as "gillian welch" or as "David Rawlings Machine" they're tops. glad for you that you caught them!

Posted by J at October 29, 2011 11:26 PM

You nailed it. You absolutely nailed it. Great read.

Posted by T at October 31, 2011 9:48 AM

Who knew they were in town? Totally missed out in it.

Posted by yabba at October 31, 2011 4:25 PM

Post a comment

(Please be patient, it can be slow.)
about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

To hear a song in your browser, click the and it will begin playing. All songs are also available to download: just right-click the link and choose 'Save as...'

All songs are removed within a few weeks of posting.

Said the Gramophone launched in March 2003, and added songs in November of that year. It was one of the world's first mp3blogs.

If you would like to say hello, find out our mailing addresses or invite us to shows, please get in touch:
Montreal, Canada: Sean
Toronto, Canada: Emma
Montreal, Canada: Jeff
Montreal, Canada: Mitz

Please don't send us emails with tons of huge attachments; if emailing a bunch of mp3s etc, send us a link to download them. We are not interested in streaming widgets like soundcloud: Said the Gramophone posts are always accompanied by MP3s.

If you are the copyright holder of any song posted here, please contact us if you would like the song taken down early. Please do not direct link to any of these tracks. Please love and wonder.

"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
our patrons
Said the Gramophone does not take advertising. We are supported by the incredible generosity of our readers. These were our donors in 2013.
watch StG's wonderful video contest winners

our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny