Spending much of his time in the warm shadows of longtime musical partner Gillian Welch, David Rawlings has long been a right hand man and sonic soul mate. Now, after co-writing four of her records, he emerges from the background with an album of his own.
On his debut, “A Friend of a Friend,” the tables have turned, although not much has changed. Rawlings and Welch still co-write most of the songs while backing each other instrumentally, but now it’s Rawlings singing the lead and Welch providing the harmonies.
“The songs differ to some degree,” says Rawlings with Welch giggling intermittently in the background. “This time around we wrote some songs that we thought might be better if I sing.”
Together with friends from Old Crow Medicine Show, Benmont Tench from the Heartbreakers, and members of Bright Eyes, “A Friend of a Friend” is a beautiful collection of nine very different tracks ranging from haunting and harrowing to upbeat and old- timey. His diction and delivery helps him present a reverent revivalist’s take on bluegrass, country and folk.
Besides the Rawlings/ Welch originals, the album also includes an epic medley cover song that merges Bright Eyes with Neil Young, and a reinterpretation of “To Be Young,” a track Rawlings co-wrote with Ryan Adams for his solo debut, “Heartbreaker.”
As for the Machine moniker, “that was something that Ryan Adams suggested to me,” Rawlings notes. “Gillian was first talking to him on the phone and told him we’ve been doing some shows under my name.
He said, ‘Whoa, the Dave Rawlings Machine.’ I thought that was a good enough name. It gives people something to write about. You give people a name and they have nothing. You give them Machine, they can talk about anything. It gives you something for your headline. I’m just trying to make your job easier.”
Dave Rawlings Machine
Saturday, 7 p.m.
967 Comm. Ave., Boston