Magazine article The New Yorker

Goings on about Town

Magazine article The New Yorker

Goings on about Town

Article excerpt

Most pop stars are, by their very nature, masters of the ephemeral. Country and blues artists, on the other hand, tend to be more mindful of their past: they make frequent use of their genre's history, both as a sign of respect for earlier masters and as a way of lobbying for membership in the canon themselves.

The singer Gillian Welch and her guitarist partner David Rawlings look to classic folk, bluegrass, country, and blues for lyrics, for melodies, and--most importantly--for moods. Time (The Revelator) (Acony), Welch's third and strongest record, finds her archivist's instinct intact: the record's title is a takeoff on the Blind Willie Johnson gospel blues "John the Revelator," and the title song is a hypnotic country-rock ballad that brushes up against Taj Mahal's "She Caught the Katy." Elsewhere, Welch and Rawlings weave snatches of Elvis Presley and Steve Miller chestnuts into their own compositions; prove their onstage mettle with a live version of "I Want to Sing That Rock and Roll"; and deliver a stunning two-part song cycle ("April the 14th"/"Ruination Day") that links the assassination of Lincoln and the sinking of the Titanic.

Dan Hicks is one of pop music's most paradoxical delights: he has become a true original by digging to the deepest roots of American music--pre-rock folk, jazz guitar, Tin Pan Alley balladry, novelty songs, and the close harmonies of wartime vocal groups like the Andrews Sisters. The best album by Hicks and his backing group, the Hot Licks, is the 1971 live set "Where's the Money? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.