Nashville-based artists have often summarized their city this way — that there are two distinct sides to the city that peacefully coexist: The glossy Faith Hill/Tim McGraw half and the darker, more alternative-country half.
And certainly one of the latter’s reigning queens would have to be Gillian Welch, ever since her Appalachian-stark “Revival” debut back in ’96. But her throne has sat empty for eight long years. Essentially, she released an ’03 solo effort, “Soul Journey,” then disappeared from the headlining scene.
In the shadows, she stayed busy, playing with David Rawlings in his Dave Rawlings Machine spinoff combo, making a folksy cameo in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” and even popping up on the zany animated TV series “Squidbillies.” (Extra points just for battling wits with that trucker-capped cephalopod Early Cuyler alone!)
But Welch is back to reclaim her crown in a big way.
Next Wednesday, she’ll be opening for Buffalo Springfield at the Fox Theater in Oakland, then returning to headline her own show at The Warfield in San Francisco on July 7.
In between, on June 28, is the reason for this flurry of activity — “The Harrow & The Harvest,” her new Rawlings-produced comeback on her Acony Records imprint.
It’s odd that two scholarly musicians who first met in the halls of Boston’s Berklee College Of Music would end up relocating to Nashville, then make a career out of digging Lomax-like into rustic folk/country history, but the singer has ten fresh tracks to show all the twangsmith tadpoles out there just how it’s done. And the week before the street date, 38 independent record stores around the country will be welcoming her back with authorized listening parties.
Visit www.gillianwelch.com for a complete rundown.