Wednesday, January 30, 2008 ... 4:04 PM

"Throw Me a Rope" Guest Entries #7, #8, and #9

Sorry I've been remiss about these. Here are some more. Dan writes:


I saw Gillian Welch for the first time after a Cardinals game at a club in St. Louis a couple of months back. My friend had gotten the tickets and was really juiced to go but, I wasn't really sure who she was. It wasn't until I saw her live in concert that I realized that I have enjoyed her voice many times before on the "O Brother Where Art Thou" soundtrack and her duets with Ryan Adams. Since the concert I have been in love with her voice and have purchased many of her Cds. I had never heard this new song, "Throw Me a Rope," until last night when I was watch her concert at St. Luke's in London and now I can't get it out of my head.


Emma generously shares with us this terrific coming of age vignette:

I guess I'll fall for your ruse--I'll swap you my Gillian Welch writing for your recording of a song which I have only heard through the grapevine is a must-have. Gladly. I'm in the library of my college at a tiny wooden carrel with the window open and freezing Maryland air blowing in on me but I can't bring myself to close the window and I
have a half hour or so to kill before I really need to get down to homework business.

HOW I FOUND GILLIAN WELCH [AND, SOMEWHAT, MYSELF] or TRYING TO PUT OFF HOMEWORK FOR THE SAKE OF ONE DARN MP3

I don't know when I first heard of Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. For brevity's sake, I'll say it was about 4 years ago, when I was 14, though I think it was earlier. I started taking guitar lessons from a woman named Toy. Toy was from Louisiana and had a sweet singing voice with a twang I now covet and loved music with that same twang.

I was 14 and though I'd lived my whole life in the south, wanted nothing to do with it. I'd implore my parents to turn off anything that, to me, sounded "too country". My father listened alternately to dry, sarcastic indie rock and classic- and alt-country like George Jones, Whiskeytown and Lucinda Williams. I hated it. I hated southern accents, I hated hot summers, I hated sweet tea and I hated that I lived in North Carolina. Even the 'north' filled me with anger--why couldn't we be a stand alone state instead some god-forsaken redneck place that was really just a sad-sack half of Carolina?

In any case, Toy loved Gillian Welch and David Rawlings. I seem to remember her traveling a great distance to see them in concert and how wowed she was the next guitar lesson, which I did not understand at all. She made me a CD of her favorite songs which I listened to once and then discarded [how I wish I could find that CD now]. Too country was my refrain all the time. I associated it all with Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and had no idea of the finer shades of this sweet southern music--old time, bluegrass, creole music, whatever. It was all "too country". Toy tried to find some "not so country" songs to teach me but in the last few lessons she snuck a Gillian Welch song in there. I don't even remember what it was, now, but I can still half play it, unrecognizable to me.

I got older. I started to look at colleges, growing less and less certain that I wanted to leave the state. My friends and I slowly fell into an allegiance with our hometown, just before we were to leave it, which grew into love for our state and soon enough the southeastern US and everything it entailed. I learned to love sweet tea and all of a sudden, the only thing that was "too country" was Tim McGraw. I took up the banjo and we wasted countless hours trying to figure out Old Crow Medicine Show lyrics. I checked out the Smithsonian Anthology of American Folk music from the library and forced myself to listen to all 6 discs until I understood a little better where it all was coming from. Hearing it leak from my headphones, my roommates here at school dismissed it all as 'too country' for their tastes. I simply turned it up louder and and shook my head.

I kept reading about and hearing about Gillian Welch, kept putting her on my list of things to buy, eventually, when I wasn't such a poor high school student. I've never been that crazy about female vocalists, but I loved the snippets I had heard, and everything else I listened to seemed to lead back to Gillian and David--David produced an album I liked or Gillian Welch and David appeared on my favorite Ryan Adams records, whatever. I began my hunt in earnest [and oh, how this embarrasses me to say] when I heard in a radio interview a few weeks ago that Jill Andrews of The Everybodyfields, a band I love, say that she counted her as a big inspiration. I figured I should get will versed and downloaded a smattering of eight songs.

For three weeks now, I have listened to nothing else. I asked some friends which songs I should get next, with no car and no easy way to a record store. One said Throw Me a Rope, so here I am. As soon as I can, though, it will be my first purchase, even though I now already have many of her songs.

I could go on and on, about the Gillian Welch concert I missed to attend a horrific senior prom, or the way my friend and I puzzled over the hard G/soft G pronounciation of Gillian, or the time we watched Old Crow Medicine Show's Wagon Wheel video again and again just to see David Rawlings, but I think this is more than enough. Sorry.

I am in college in Maryland and have been here for only 2 months. I'm growing increasingly sure that it is not the right place for me and as the seasons grow colder, I only get more and more homesick for the home I once maligned. I don't have much of a drawl, not as much of one as I'd like, anyways, but get teased for the slight accent I have and southern phrases I have held fast to. In Gillian's sweet voice, despite her California Girl roots, I hear echoes of my home and a rich tradition of music I always rejected. I guess that's all there is to say... just that when I hear these songs I think to myself that "But I missed those hills with the windy pines/for their song seemed to suit me..."


And Tommy tells a story of meeting Gil & Dave that legitimizes the song title "Throw Me a Rope" ... and the Tent Revue's speakeasy distribution of the MP3.

So my story with Gillian goes like this:

I was familiar with her only by name and her work in "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" That is, until I visited my sister in Lexington, KY last November. It was then that, as we walked by The Dame (a rockin' awesome venue in downtown Lexington) that my sister suddenly said, "Oh, Dave Rawlings is going to be here this week. It says 'with special guest'...I wonder if Gillian is playing, too?" Well, those might not be her exact words, but that's the gist. So we went to the concert, and much to my delight I was in awe of them during the whole show. But my favorite part of the show was a song that, not knowing the actual name of it, I coined "the pretty unison song." I tried as hard as I could to find out the name of it, but to no avail.

A few days later, I moved back to Birmingham, AL, where the Dave Rawlings Machine was scheduled to play in a couple of weeks. I bought two tickets but ended up going alone to the show. I'm glad I did, though, because I saw some old friends there, and it also kept me free to stay late after the show and talk to Gillian and Dave. Dave, being as humble as he is, was stoked that he had met someone who had come to TWO "Machine" shows on its first tour. After I had them sign the CD I had just purchased, I asked Dave and Gillian what the name of "that pretty unison song" was that they played in Lexington. They said it had two names, "Throw Me a Rope," and "The Way It Would Be." They said that it hadn't been released on any recording, but I might be able to find it on the net somewhere as a bootleg. So I tried, but once again got nothing.

Now it's a year later, and I joined a Facebook group that led me to your blog and offer. I can't tell you how excited I am to hear the song again!


Thanks folks for contributing!

Still more to come.

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Making Notes: Music of the Carolinas
(Novello Festival Press, April 2008)
includes my essay, "Link Wray"



SITES WHICH THE TENT REVUE RECOMMENDS

MUSIC
Flop Eared Mule
The Celestial Monochord
HickoryWind.org
Dig and Be Dug in Return
Modern Acoustic Magazine / Blog
The Old, Weird America
Honey, Where You Been So Long?


LITERATURE
The Greensboro Review
Mixed Animal
Night Train
Fried Chicken and Coffee
Mungo (This was the blog of my friend, the late Cami Park. Miss you, Cami.)
Staccato Fiction
Wigleaf
PANK Magazine


OTHER
Cat and Girl
Film Freak Central