NO DEPRESSION FOUNDER GRANT ALDEN PENS PIECE ABOUT POOR DAVID’S ALMANACK

Being a Meditation on the Power and Glory of Folk Music Click here to read…

More Poor David’s Almanack In the Press

“…a sweetly engaging, impressively wide-ranging collection of American roots music.”

“An extraordinary folk guitarist with a sympathetic ear and a bell-like tone…”

“With its sway and moments of breezy virtuosity, ‘Poor David’s Almanack’ has
the feel of music made on a mountainside back porch for no other reason than the joy of doing so.”

“On Rawlings’ third LP under his own name, the question of whether his solo efforts are somehow
lesser than those he’s made with top-billed Gillian Welch becomes moot. Most of these 10 originals
sound like time-proven folk classics…”

“…an Americana record you can howl along to in the car until your heart feels replenished, to guitar
work that stands among the finest.”

“David Rawlings’ Poor David’s Almanack picks up where Nashville Obsolete left off — with that
gorgeous, spacious, sepia-toned timelessness and motion that Rawlings and his longtime partner,
Gillian Welch, conjure so well.”

“What’s so profoundly American about these songs are the way they often deploy humorous metaphor
and simple, child-like storytelling devices to convey deeper, darker truths.”

“Old-fashioned yet timeless and inextricably entwined, albums crafted by David Rawlings and his
partner-in-rhyme Gillian Welch have become the bedrock of 21st-century Americana music.”

Poor David’s Almanack LPs are now widely available. Visit your favorite record store or click below to order the new album now.

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It is ironing day, one of the Kennedy years, and the tubes on the Fisher Hi-Fi smell like burning dust or outer space when they warm up. A handful of monaural LPs, the detritus of graduate school, is lovingly stacked to the side of the big speaker, chosen depending upon mood and the count of white shirts. And the audience, for the music will soothe and enchant the little boy, too, who sits at the center of the couch as quietly as a little boy can sit: Peggy Seeger, Jean Ritchie, Oscar Brand, Odetta, perhaps the Clancy Brothers, Cisco Houston because Woody’s voice is too rough, Ed McCurdy. “The Cat Came Back,” “Rye Whiskey,” and “Deportees.”

David Rawlings wasn’t born then, but Poor David’s Almanack would have played happily on that turntable, on his parents’ turntable. Over and over again, the little boy (either of us) smiling and kicking his heels into the couch.

The sound of fun being had. “So long, it’s been good to know you.”

As Squeeze sang, “Singles remind me of kisses, albums remind me of plans.”

What folk music was: deeply rooted songs with effortless melodies, the best lines repeated so often one cannot help but to sing along. Except that Rawlings and his confederates have access to a century’s accumulated tradition, technique, and technology, and all the loss which attends that.

The legacy of Harry Smith and Alan Lomax and John Work, and all the smart young people who found in that music a way to tell their own stories. To make a living.

\
Pause, please, to remember that Shakespeare stole his plots and wrote scenes to compete with the sounds of dogs fighting bears next door.

Which leaves out the other piece of it, the irreconcilable arguments about authenticity and cultural appropriation, for all those smart young people came principally from affluence and education and had not been obliged to walk the hills of Virginia selling fruit trees. Nor served time at Parchman Farm.

Does “Sixteen Tons” sound real, even if Merle Travis made the whole thing up? Is the keen longing, the hope and loneliness resplendent in the chorus of “Cumberland Gap” any less powerful because David Rawlings and Gillian Welch have never been obliged to harvest dinner with a flintlock? To say nothing of Woody Guthrie’s debt to the Carter Family, nor their debts.

Folk music, then, by which is meant all the fragments of songs one sings and whistles and remembers, irrespective who holds the copyright or whether the singer wore the glad rags of fame. A dense bramble, our music, largely untended, grown wild across an obscure patch of imagination about which nobody much cares. Weeds and hot house roses cross-pollinating. Its fruit is often picked and taken to market, and very occasionally it flowers.

Flowered into a full bouquet for one singular instant, when Little Richard found God and Buddy Holly plunged to earth and Chuck Berry did Mann Act time, the moment when earnest sweater folk came to Camelot. Such bland hope, and yet it was also the punk of its season, frat boys covering Tom Lehrer and pink Pete Seeger, borrowing from Tin Pan Alley, concealing authorship because true folk music had only vague, pre-literate sources. Love and theft.

Wait. “Sweater folk.” Do we undercut the singer or the audience with that epithet? Both. Artists are also performers who wear costumes, tailored so as to meet their audience’s expectations. And the audience, moved by the sing-a-long politics of those songs, really did rise up and change the world, for a time. The music — the art — they made popular created a commercial platform upon which Bob Dylan and John Prine and Joni Mitchell could stand.

Those silly songs really were about…something…that really was blowing in the wind.

And, so, back to this new Almanack singing.

Back to David Rawlings’ album in which the principal argument is not at all political — not at all — simply the artist’s complex meditation on the nature and process of creativity, on the illusion of originality, on the folk process itself. And his affection for a certain kind of song, long out of fashion. Poor David’s Almanack is either David Rawlings’ eighth album, counting the five he’s made with Gillian Welch, or his third, including two released by the Dave Rawlings Machine. Or his debut.

In any event it is the first public release of songs he did not co-write, a collaborative intimacy Nashville appointment books have given a bad name, but a rare skill nevertheless. (Gillian Welch did co-write half the album. There is no subtext, no drama.) “I didn’t do it by changing my process,” Rawlings says, “so much as I did it by finding little pieces of things in the world to co-write with.”

Little pieces of things.

Rawlings encountered his new songs while rooting among the ancient vines of folk music, the oral traditions of the blues and Bible stories, nonsense and tall tales. Fragments of things he could improvise around, improve, make new.

“It felt important in some ways to have written these things ourselves,” he says, “as opposed to playing Woody Guthrie’s version of a traditional song. This is the world of old folk music. These melodies have a strength in their simplicity. If you don’t want to sit and sing it around in circles ten or twenty times, it’s not doing the job.”

Yes, other people have set the devilish Child ballad behind “Yup” to music (the story apparently goes back to a sixth century Hindu text), recorded songs titled “Midnight Train,” or told the story behind the modern spiritual “Good God a Woman” (with its nod to Lead Belly). They simply didn’t sound like this, because that’s the folk process. And because David Rawlings is very, very good at what he does.

“Most of the good art I can find seems to be derived from something, more than I ever expected,” he says. “It all comes from somewhere, whether it’s intentional or unintentional. When I really evaluate art I like, I think, gee, the author added 30-some percent to that [source]. Maybe it’s the golden mean; you’re the little part. Maybe that’s what great art is.”

Almanack has all the simplicity and understatement of a debut, of an opening statement in which one can hear future echoes of all the complexities and nuances which might follow, except the reverse is true. It has taken twenty years of musical and recording knowledge to prune to this particular essence. During that time Rawlings and Welch have worked a comparatively narrow vein of Appalachian folk tradition, piling words and modern ambiguities upon familiar frames.

The frame beneath Almanack is different. To begin with, there is a dry, laconic northeastern humor lurking at its margins, betraying Rawlings’ Rhode Island origins (“Lindsey Button” sings like “Lindsey Burton,” just the edge of a burr there). And then, again, it is rich with participatory choruses your second grade teacher — the one with the big round glasses — would strum on her guitar. An audience of ghosts in sweaters, perhaps.

“All musicians have a much wider strike zone than their audience,” says Rawlings, having just conducted an eloquent disquisition on the musics of AC/DC, Black Sabbath, and the Pixies. ”Go listen to ‘9 to 5’ by Dolly Parton, and listen to Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass.’ ‘Heart of Glass’ happens two years earlier, and it’s a massive hit. And I think that’s completely intentional, but whether it is or not, it make no difference. There’s her source, there’s her new song.

“Woody Guthrie, the sun that Bob Dylan revolved around, realized that there wasn’t enough time in the world to write melodies for all the thoughts in his head,” says Rawlings. “A month doesn’t go by that I don’t bump into another source for a Bob Dylan song, which is a complete set of melody and chords that he wrote words to, and we all think of as a Bob Dylan song.”

Or, put more directly: All popular music is by definition folk music, even though purists and academics and copyright attorneys can argue the point endlessly.

It’s the songs, always. The glorious nonsense of “Money is the Meat in the Coconut” (Roger Miller, minus the little white pills), the toe-dragging love behind “Come On Over My House,” the sad peace underlying “Put ’em Up Solid.”

And the way they’re played, because only friends can play with such precise simplicity, with such glorious intimacy. They recorded in the familiar confines of East Nashville’s Woodland Sound Studios, the Machine (Brittany Haas, Paul Kowert, Willie Watson, and Gillian Welch), augmented by Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith (Dawes), with a handful of guests dropping by, because somebody’s got to play the saw.

“The album has got a certain color to it because it was made quickly,” Rawlings says. “It was a bit of an editing puzzle because there weren’t a lot of takes to choose from.” Luckily the songs announced themselves to be unfussy and durable things.

“In some ways,” Rawlings says, “this record feels to me like we’ve been living in this house for 20 years and we finally decided to open the back two rooms. We were leaving these rooms because we figured some other people would move in the back…expecting company, but nobody came.”
He pauses. Thinks some more. “Yes, this is folk music,” he says. “And we really have spent our lives doing it.”

All of which begs the central question, what it means to craft folk music…today? When almost (but not quite; far from) every ancestral song can be listened to online, when there can be no pretense of artistic innocence unless it be willful, when the habit of listening has become such a private headphone withdrawal and not a public celebration of transcendent joy.

It is a quest for a nonspecific kind of immortality. For a song or a phrase or a singular guitar line which survives past even the memory of your name.

It is the plain, simple truth of fun. Of human connection. Of shared emotion, even the hurting part.

It is the search for another song which makes a little boy sit on a couch quietly pounding his feet in time with a chorus he wants to hear over and over again. All his life.

It’s that.

Yup.

Grant Alden
Morehead, KY

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Poor David’s Almanack is out today! NPR hails the album as an “impressively wide-ranging collection of American roots music” and it can purchased on LP, CD, or digital here.

“With its sway and moments of breezy virtuosity, David Rawlings’ POOR DAVID’S ALMANACK has the feel of music made on a mountainside back porch for no other reason than the joy of doing so.”
– The Wall Street Journal

“This is soul music, down and dirty. He’s rediscovered America. I could listen to these songs a hundred times.”
– Garrison Keillor

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Track Listing
1. Midnight Train
2. Money Is The Meat In The Coconut
3. Cumberland Gap
4. Airplane
5. Lindsey Button
6. Come On Over My House
7. Guitar Man
8. Yup
9. Good God A Woman
10. Put ‘Em Up Solid

8/16 – Louisville, KY at Brown Theatre
8/17 – St. Louis, MO at The Sheldon Concert Hall – SOLD OUT
8/18 – Kansas City, MO at Folly Theater
8/20 – Lyons, CO at Rocky Mountain Folks Fest
8/23 – Minneapolis, MN at Pantages Theatre
8/24 – Madison, WI at Capitol Theater – Overture Center
8/25 – Chicago, IL at Thalia Hall
8/26 – Bloomington, IN at The Bluebird

*All shows are on sale now!

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Acclaimed songwriter and guitarist David Rawlings will release his freshly pressed third album, Poor David’s Almanack, on August 11th via Acony Records. For Poor David’s Almanack, Rawlings leaves the Dave Rawlings Machine moniker behind and serves up a wry mixture of acoustic and electric music rich in ageless American vernacular. The album of ten new songs was crafted by studio wizards Ken Scott (Beatles, David Bowie) and Matt Andrews on analog tape during a week of sessions at legendary Woodland Sound Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. Rawlings and longtime compatriot Gillian Welch joined together with Willie Watson, Paul Kowert, Brittany Haas, Ketch Secor, and Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes to produce an album for all seasons.

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The Dave Rawlings Machine has added new tour dates this August, as they make their way to Colorado for the Rocky Mountain Folks Festival! All new shows go on sale next Friday, May 12th (more details on our tour page as they come in).
Wed 8/16 – Louisville, KY @ Brown Theatre
Thu 8/17 – St. Louis, MO @ The Sheldon Concert Hall
Fri 8/18 – Kansas City, MO @ Folly Theater
Sun 8/20 – Lyons, CO @ Rocky Mountain Folks Fest
Wed 8/23 – Minneapolis, MN @ Pantages Theatre
Thu 8/24 – Madison, WI @ Capitol Theater
Fri 8/25 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Sat 8/26 – Bloomington, IN @ The Bluebird
*all shows on sale Friday, May 12th

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For those not able to make it to the Dave Rawlings Machine’s extra-special performance at Cumberland Caverns in TN this spring, Dave’s set will be broadcast in the very first episode of the Emmy Award-winning Bluegrass Underground, starting up again this week on PBS. Click here to check your local PBS listings and click below to watch a clip of “The Last Pharaoh” from the Machine’s episode, which airs this week.

GOING TO CALIFORNIA

As the Machine heads up the West Coast this fall, we’ve added an essential stop at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco on Saturday, October 1st. See below for what will likely be your last chance to catch this Machine this year!

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This fall, the Machine will reunite for more West Coast tour dates, traveling up the coast from Santa Cruz, making several stops in California and ending at an old favorite, the Rogue Theatre in Grants Pass, OR.

All new fall shows go on sale this Friday, 6/17 (except where noted) with a special fan club presale this Wednesday, 6/15. A small number of great seats will be set aside for the presale, and you can access them with the passcode: “CANDY”. See below for the full fall run of dates!

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For all you Colorado fans who thought we skipped by you last year, the Machine has added TWO dates in the Centennial State before making it’s way to the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. DRM has shows in Fort Collins on Tuesday, June 14, and Denver on Wednesday, June 15. Both shows go on sale this Friday, March 25th. See the tour page for more info.

Photo by Michael Mackenzie (ABC RN)

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