The yang to the yin of Gillian Welch’s October 1 Lobero show, The Dave Rawlings Machine offered a sunnier side of the Americana coin Rawlings and Welch flipped just two weeks ago on the same stage. With more upbeat numbers and jokes, it was a lighthearted affair, replete with fiddling and audience call-and-response. That’s not to say it was any less good or less moving, however. The Machine played straight from — and straight to — the heart.
It was a night of first times, this being the first time this incarnation of the band played together. They did a great and rollicking good job, and for all of Rawlings’s precautions there was nary a missed note or hiccup to be heard. On some songs, the band was reduced to a duo, though your ears may not have noticed without your eyes. As my show partner said, the instrumentations of Welch and Rawlings are so evocative, so deep and complex just in the pairing of two guitars, that at times it the extra instrumentation seemed frivolous. But then the enrapturing strings of fiddler Brittany Haas and bassist Paul Kowert came back in, and you remembered why this Machine has so many moving parts.
The band played every song from the newest, Nashville Obsolete, with the rambling talk-singing of “The Trip” being a particular highlight. It was a transporting song, sweeping the audience away to a relaxed, front-porch sensation, with a deep wistfulness beneath the floorboards. The band churned out a few impressive traditionals and covers too, including Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and The Band’s “The Weight.” If Welch and Rawlings’s previous visit was something of an intimate hearth stoking, The Dave Rawlings Machine’s show was more like a picnic, shared and jolly.
Both shows, in the end, pointed homeward, this time with the lullaby of “Go To Sleep Little Baby.” It’s a testament to a creative partnership that they can return in a span of two weeks time in a different incarnation, and wow in whole new (and wholly familiar) ways. This “banjo-loving town” being something of an honorary home for the Rawlings and Welch crew, may this be a message to them that they are always welcome back — we’ll be more than ready.