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David Rawlings Machine

A Friend of a Friend – 2009 (Acony)

Reviewed by Jason MacNeil

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CDs by David Rawlings Machine

Although he's often the accompanying yin to Gillian Welch and her Appalachian-inspired yang, Dave Rawlings has branched out with this new project and album. Although not the standard 10 or 11-song album, Rawlings nails most of these songs out of the park, especially the lovable and endearing first effort Ruby which sounds like the perfect b-side to the Stones' Angie. The song is also accented with fiddle and keys, but not at the expense of the fine melody.

From there, Rawlings tones the album down with the somewhat hushed tone of I Hear Them All. It's a strong, folksy singer-songwriter nugget that he probably could execute in his sleep given his experience. But the performer jumps out of his comfort zone for Method Acting, which has him embodying Dylan a tad complemented by his picking. This flows seamlessly into Neil Young's Cortez The Killer with great results.

The biggest disappointment might be how deliberate and run-of-the-mill How's About You comes off, with Rawlings guiding the song slowly. However, a close second might be the childlike wonder the singer exudes when delivering the simplistic Monkey And The Engineer with sweet backing harmonies and a jazzy New Orleans swagger.

Fans of Welch and Rawlings together will eat up the gorgeous toe-tapper Sweet Tooth that is fully fleshed out over five fabulous minutes. And another such aural delight is the old-time Carter Family-leaning It's Too Easy as Rawling opines about moonshine. Fortunately he ends the album with the same Big Easy, Louis Armstrong feel on the tender Bells Of Harlem.