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The pandemic hangs heavy in the long-term duo’s first album to share joint billing, and thrives when Welch leads.  Originally released last year, but only available via their website they have now offered it to their Australian distributor for general release.

Incredibly, Gillian Welch once played bass in a college goth band. But after an epiphany hearing bluegrass duo the Stanley Brothers, her music and image have been steeped in a nostalgic strain of Americana, from her rough-hewn 1996 debut Revival to this collection of  covers with Dave Rawlings, her long-term musical partner. Initially released on a short run of CDs after their Nashville studio was destroyed by a tornado at the start of lockdown, this release is the first to bear both their names. The partners share the billing because, for the first time, they split the vocal duties right down the middle.

 Welch/Rawlings apply the same tried-and-true formula they’ve honed for a quarter century now to this collection of covers including two Bob Dylan tracks, John Prine’s “Hello in There,” a song by folk guitarist Elizabeth Cotton…: all-acoustic, duet-style, singing into a single mic. Even the recording method is antiquated: they dusted off a reel-to-reel to capture these songs; no DAT or hard drives for these two. (On one track, the tape reel runs out well before the last verse is over. It’s one of the more charming technical glitches in recent memory, a bug shrugged off as a feature).