Southern Appalachia, a place I love and where my daughter was born, is of profound natural beauty and, equally, great hardship and poverty. If you're from the mountains, you'll be sure to count on one thing: even the lowliest, leaf-gawking tourists, who pull in your town with their big shiny Buicks with New York tags, will be totally convinced that they are culturally, intellectually and personally superior to you in every way. They'll come to fish, hunt or pass through to other places, and they'll look down on and call you hick, Hee-Haw, Country-Bumpkin, hillbilly, Deliverance redneck, and such. It's hard to tell about the hard life, hard work, hard times hard places and the good people of that region. So much of what is American, in literature and music, derives from that poor, misunderstood and maligned corner of America where the Irish, Scots , Welch, Germans and Austrians met to toil in the coal mines and small mountain farms. Here the Celtic fiddlers and harpists met the Alpine yodlers with their zithers, and the mountain dulcimer, hammered dulcimer and autoharps and American folk music was born. Relatively isolated in small communities deep in the hills and hollers, they gave birth to what was to become one of the primary roots of popular American music. Bluegrass, folk, white gospel, and country music in general , trace straight back to Appalachia. Here, with these two fine musicians, if you listen carefully, you can still hear traces of the true, old Celtic musical traditions , and also Alpine mountain music....primitive sensibilities with melodic sophistication, rich in spirituality and expressionistic storytelling. Simple, stark, and veiled in the white gospel, the hillbilly tradition is carried throughout this album - sentimental and melancholy. Welch and Rawlings cook up tight mountain style two part harmonies and hard-core hillbilly spirituals and they understood old-time music intrinsically, the way writers like Steinbeck, Annie Pruitt, Dorothy Allison and Cormac McCarthy understand the regions they write about, whether they're from there or not.
The only thing that I don't like is that David Rawlings is not given equal billing. Nobody can play guitar like that boy on his 1934 Epiphone. Gillian is all that, but Rawlings is outright brilliant.