Like Gillian Welch, David Rawlings became prolific after nearly losing his life's work. (2023)

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The protectors of American folk music weathered a devastating tornado and are committed to releasing their back catalogue.

the first catastrophe2020 came a little earlier than most forGillian Walchand David Rawlins. On a stormy night in early March, theThe duo sped through Woodland Studios, the historic East Nashville recording facility that has served as the duo's base of operations since 2001, trying to save their life's work after being hit directly by a tornado. Its master recordings, instruments and equipment have been threatened by the rain that has fallen on the building in the last four hours.

“Everything got wet,” Welch says. “You wouldn't want to see the tape boxes. You are horrible.

Welch and Rawlings managed to salvage almost everything from their damaged studio, but the deadly Nashville tornado, as well as the coronavirus pandemic that preceded it by just over a week, gave the duo a new sense of urgency to release new music. is old.On Friday, the duo revealedBoots #2: The Lost Songs, Vol. 1, the first in a series of 48 demos Welch and Rawlings recorded over one incredibly productive weekend in late December 2002. This release comes two weeks later.all the good times, an amazing collection of popular home covers edited in quarantine during the last few months.

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"Dave and I are working as hard as we can to get as much music out into the world as possible," says Welch. "This is basically methodno time."

As Welch and Rawlings explain in an interview withRolling Stone, part of that dedicated and urgent focus comes from the experience of almost losing your original recordings in the storm. Part of that also comes from the more practical financial concerns of having to repair your damaged studio, as well as small record label owners and artists making their income as they go. “It's a bit crazy, honestly,” Rawlings says of the devastating impact of the pandemic on his livelihood.

And finally, part of their mindset to release as much music as possible stems from what Welch and Rawlings describe as a growing emotional attraction to the popular songs they've been playing all their lives.

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"Music has some things that only music can do at a time like this," says Rawlings. “With folk songs, each person puts a bit of their DNA into their bloodstream from that song, and the culture and time they come from often does as well. It keeps songs and melodies [alive]. They bring something of themselves and their own experiences to the music. [When I play these songs] in a moment of isolation and reflection, it's almost like all these people are there."

You release the first 18 of the 48 demo recordings you made between 2001Time (The Revealer)2003soul journey. That's a lot of music to write in a few years.
Walch:It wasn't even a few years, it was just a weekend. But they were not written from scratch. I have booklets with song ideas and unfinished songs, a lot of them, 100-200 notebooks. So it's not like we thought of all these songs in one weekend, but we finished and recorded them in that time.

When was this weekend? You started working?soul journey?
Walch:That was before. That was in December 2002. My publishing contract was supposed to automatically renew on January 1st. I owe them songs. I have been an author since January 1, 1994 and I have a publishing contract. We became a touring act, and I don't write on the road, so I owed them all those songs. Dave said, "What if we contact you? What if we give you all the songs?" He started taking out the notebooks and we started to finish the songs, I finished one, he searched the notebooks for another song, I finished another, and when he came back with the next song, he turned the tape on and I sang it once. and we didn't want to hear the performance. That's what happened, the songs were tailored to my needs, and then I was no longer a staff writer.

What do you hear when you listen to these demos from almost 20 years?
Walch:It is by no means our normal process. Dave and I have always been album-oriented artists. These were very different. These were received with much impartiality. There's a strange immediacy to these songs and I hear that complete lack of filtering. I hear I'm not judging myself. It was like, "We wrote this song, now we have to record it." There are things you think about when you know you're recording: “Is this the best version of the song? That's the version that people are going to hear." It was nothing like that.

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How long has it been since you saw those tapes again?
Walch:Every once in a while there would be a reason. Buddy Miller called us once. He was making a record with Solomon Burke and he wanted to see if we had country R&B songs. This is how Solomon finally got to the Valley of Tears. Alison Krauss, same thing. She searched for a few songs and finally came to "Wouldn't Be So Bad." But to be completely honest, this album is definitely a reaction to what happened when we decided to release it now.


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Walch:The tornado was a big reason. Almost destroying all the tapes really makes you think. All of our teachers were in the Woodland vaults and when the roof came off like a can of sardines and then it rained for four hours and then all the roofs caved in, basically everything we had was pretty much destroyed. … It got us thinking about our entire file. It's one thing to know in your head that you have these tapes, it's another to run through the darkness holding them and save them from destruction. When we rescue her from great danger, you think, "Why did I save this?" And then you think, "Well, I guess because it means something."

What made you decide to record a cover album in your living room during the quarantine?
Walch:Many artists I know struggle with a sense of meaninglessness. I know that I really feltNo-essential. Artists I know, we really go into post-traumatic survival mode. But actually, I heard from some people that the only good point was the music. For me, it really helped me focus. Dave and I, in all this confusion, what did we do? We would sit there every night and play popular songs. That was our response at that time.

Rawlinge:I wouldn't say we playfurtherMusic [like normal] but I realized that music is forfurther. It was nice to capture some things where we played a song in the past and I was like, 'I wish we weren't the only two people in the world that would hear this rendition because it felt like something.' It's not like this happens on every song, it certainly isn't. But maybe you play something once a night or once every other night and you're like, "Oh my gosh..."

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Whose idea was it to record the folk songs that were played every night?
Walch:I live in my head most of the time, and for the past few months I have been completely cut off from the world. Would you have the means to install a microphone and put a tape in the machine? No. But Dave does. Similarly, in Lost 48 Songs, these notebooks aren't taken out, these songs aren't finished without Dave saying, "I think we can do this." we have been able to make better art together for a long time. Those 48 songs would be on the air. The same goes for "Miss Ohio." I sang and he heard me through the door. I thought it was just a silly rhyme, like a lullaby. And Dave said, "What was that?" I thought: "Which one?"

Rawlinge:I heard her fiddling with things and then I remembered we were talking about another song we were trying to write and I said, "What was the other catchy thing you were humming?" She said, "Oh, I don't know, it's just that little ditty." And it was the climax of that chorus [with "Look at Miss Ohio."] It's funny how songs have this kind of elemental power in retrospect, but can seem so small at first glance. You almost think, "Oh, that's settled." Or you think, “This is just a catchy song.” And then the music starts rolling.

The image you two conjure up is of two people spending time playing popular songs to themselves. In the last five months, have you found time to relax? Do you watch Netflix like the rest of us? Do you write new songs?
Rawlinge:I'm not a big relaxer. I mean, 14 hour days are pretty normal. But it has to be right now, with everything that's going on here. A lot of technical work has been done. You have to keep the music up. I'm looking at our career arc and we've come to the end of what we would call the music industry, before it crashed. before the pandemic. And the only way forward was to go it alone, to become an independent label. I don't always know if it's for the best, but it is what it is.

Walch:Most writers I know, especially the best writers, are pretty quiet right now. The whole world is still reeling from this catastrophic turn of events. My author friends, my artist friends, now we are very close. After "How are you?" it's always "Are you typing?" We always say, "No man, it's not an opportunity. There's no comfort in that. So we just focused on playing, just playing and singing and diving into the canon of popular songs and really connecting with them. Finding something in them, maybe more than ever before Because they are diamonds You are indestructible.


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