The Dave Rawlings Machine Folks It Up In Austin (SHOW REVIEW)

As the Dave Rawlings Machine neared the end of a lengthy tour in support of their latest studio album Nashville Obsolete, they found themselves in Austin, Texas on a chilly Saturday night. The quintet took the stage at the ornate and historic Paramount Theater to a near capacity crowd of fans both new and old, all of whom were there for the purpose of getting folked up on a heady dose of Americana.

The first set started a bit sleepy as the group found their groove, but things quickly picked up. On this current tour the Machine features former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson handling some guitar and banjo duties, bassist Paul Kowert, and fiddler Tatiana Silver Hargreaves. As always, Dave Rawlings and Gillian Welch serve as the group’s centerpiece, and this time around it was Rawlings who handled the bulk of the singing. The group’s harmonies shimmered on the melancholy single off their new album “The Weekend”, while songs like “Bodysnatchers” and “The Trip” were soft and peaceful save for a brief flourish of fiddle or Rawlings’ intricate guitar picking here and there. Not surprisingly, one of the set’s most lively moments came when Rawlings shared the story of writing “To Be Young” with Ryan Adams before taking the crowd along for the ride as he plucked his banjo right on through the tune.

Following a brief intermission, the Machine returned to the stage reinvigorated and loosened up. This was reflected in the setlist, a mix of older tunes, fan favorites, and predictable yet well-chosen covers. Folkie Americana originals like “Ruby” and “The Pharaoh” found Rawlings and co. locking into lush harmonies, and by the time they got to the laid back picking and singing of “I Hear Them All” that led into a flawless cover of Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land”, the Paramount Theater felt like a rustic cabin with the audience sitting in on a group of musicians just swapping songs and playing old favorites. Guthrie’s song may resonate more with our childhood memories, but hearing Dave Rawlings play it in these tumultuous times made it clear just how potent the message still is.

Playing well over two hours, the band would tackle covers by Bob Dylan (“Queen Jane Approximately”), Neil Young (“Cortez The Killer”), and The Band (“The Weight”) before bringing the evening to a close. In the end, the Dave Rawlings Machine’s performance in Austin favored the mellow over the riveting (this was, after all, a folk show). The venue of this night’s show may have been a bit classy for the gather-around-ye-all campground vibe of the band’s presence, but ultimately it proved to be a conducive setting for the sound and intimacy of what this talented group of musicians brought to the stage.  Nonetheless, it seemed that the group’s ability to bring such closeness to a large theater was exactly their draw for the fans that attended.

SETLIST:

  1. The Weekend
  2. Bodysnatchers
  3. Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home)
  4. Wayside/Back in Time – Welch lead vocals
  5. To Be Young
  6. Keep It Clean – Watson lead vocals
  7. Bells of Harlem
  8. The Trip
  9. It’s Too Easy

INTERMISSION

  1. Ruby
  2. The Last Pharaoh
  3. He Will Set Your Fields on Fire
  4. Sweet Tooth
  5. I Hear Them All / This Land Is Your Land
  6. Stewball – Watson lead vocals
  7. Short Haired Woman Blues
  8. Queen Jane Approximately

ENCORE ONE

  1. Look at Miss Ohio – Welch lead vocals
  2. Method Acting / Cortez the Killer

ENCORE TWO

  1. Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
  2. The Weight
  3. Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby

Photo via Instagram user @thenicolewagner

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