My partner and myself received tickets at the last minute to go the Midlands Music Festival back in 2007. The festival was set on the grounds of Belvedere House, an old stately home that used to belong to the Rochforts, a very old and influential family who came to Ireland during the 13th century.
We just went for the afternoon and evening. The Blind Boys of Alabama played and Paul Brady played with his full band and much, much more.
After Paul Brady, they cleared the stage completely. We were waiting for them to start bringing on the next lot of gear, amps drums and all the rest, but all the roadies brought out was a table with little drawers on it. “What this” I thought. It was like a scene from one of Flan O Briens books. Then two mic stands, pretty stripped back compared to rest of the acts.
Then out came Gillian and David, casual as you like. They had a guitar each, Gillian with her 1956 Gibson J-50 acoustic and Dave with a little acoustic with F holes, the Epiphone Olympic 1935 with a carved archtop, no sound hole!
We were near the front in the middle, between the PA speakers and there they were just the two of them in the middle of the stage. Then they started, (I can’t remember the set list) but the minute they started playing, the hair stood on the back of my neck. I was never a massive fan or anything, just heard of Gillian through my partner. The music been, Appalachian music, Bluegrass and Americana.
I remember the sound hopping back and forth through those speakers, the honeyed vocals from the two and harmonies that made the birds stop to listen. The sound from David’s little guitar was so sweet. He started to play some lead guitar into her playing and Gillian with her head down just listening and tapping her right foot in Gillian Welch style. I couldn’t believe my ears. “What’s going on”? I said to myself. I’ve been to lots of gigs in my time but for just two people they blew my mind. Dave’s lead guitar was just popping in and out, as she did a down strum he seemed to be doing an up stroke and the sound was going from speaker to speaker, left and right. The two so synchronized, incredible for just two people. I thought he was going to snap that little guitar, the way he was playing, really going for it.
I looked at my partner and she had tears, so had I, the tears of joy at the amazing sound, it just brought out emotions. My partner was singing along with the songs, I could hear her harmonizing with them. “This sound is just so amazing” I thought.
They played Miss o’ Hio, and Rawlings guitar accompaniments seemed to be delayed; he was coming in slightly behind Welch as she sang.
Impeccable timing, they complemented each other so well. As someone said, “they are the peanut butter and chocolate of America”, they were the jelly and ice cream that evening for me.