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No sugarcoating, Welch dishes out an experience

Orpheum Theatre, Los Angeles, October 4, 2017

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

Gillian Welch (accompanied, as always, by master guitarist David Rawlings), celebrated her "The Harrow & The Harvest" album with a powerful night of music. She apologized many times for the utter unhappiness expressed through this album's songs, admitting it's "not the most chipper album" at one point. Fans knew this going in, though, because much of Welch's music is akin to musings from a Great Depression era ghost.

Welch is touring behind this 2011 album because it's just been re-released on vinyl. The 10 songs comprised the first half of the concert, whereas the second half was filled with various songs from throughout her career. The concert, like the album, opened with the folk-ish "Scarlet Town." This was followed by "Dark Turn of Mind," a song (and a sentiment) that exemplifies many of the hard luck souls peopling Welch's songs: "You know some girls are bright as the morning/And some have a dark turn of mind" "The Way It Goes" is a list of troubled ones, while "Hard Times" finds a pour fellow doing his best to avoid giving in to a 'dark turn of mind.'

Welch's singing is both lovely and conversational, and she also played guitar, banjo and a little harmonica. Rawlings may play second fiddle, so to speak, when paired with Welch, but his input is essential. His acoustic guitar runs are nothing less than inspired. So good, in fact, he received a standing ovation for his extended workout during "Revelator," which came early in the night's second half. To lighten the mood a touch, Welch even did a little dance during "Six White Horses."

Welch couldn't dance enthusiastically enough, though, to completely counter the down mood created by her songs. Anyone attending this concert hoping to mix a little partying into their midweek, came away empty handed. Much like a Flannery O'Connor short story, Welch never sugarcoats the flaws in her characters. You may want to look away at times, but you'll never forget what you experience.

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