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First Play: David Rawlings, Poor David's Almanack

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Holly Gordon

A staple of the Americana tradition and longtime musical partner to Gillian Welch, David Rawlings hasn’t often taken the spotlight for himself, instead standing as the go-to sideman for many a beloved — and critically acclaimed — album. But with this new release, Poor David’s Almanack, it sounds like he’s ready for that shine.

This is Rawlings’s third solo collection of songs, though the first with only his own name on the cover (both previous efforts were under David Rawlings Machine). That said, Welch is at his side, counting this as the two artists’ eighth studio collaboration — including Welch’s Grammy-nominated albums Time (The Revelator) (2001) and The Harrow and the Harvest (2011). Poor David’s Almanack also sees Rawlings joined by Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes, Ketch Secor of Old Crow Medicine Show, guitarist Willie Watson, bassist Paul Kowert and fiddle player Brittany Haas. It was produced by Matt Andrews and Ken Scott (the Beatles, David Bowie), and recorded in Nashville at Rawlings and Welch’s Woodland Sound Studios.

The 10 tracks on Poor David’s Almanack are Rawlings at his unassuming best, the perfect pairing of his voice with Welch’s holding the narrative thread overtop a tight, talented band. The album is a span of Rawlings’s expertise and comforts, ranging from comical bits (“Money is the Meat in the Coconut”) to beautiful, slow ballads (“Airplane”) to a new standout stomper that tips its hat to the traditional “Cumberland Gap” Appalachian folk song but is made of a Rawlings-Welch hook all its own (“Cumberland Gap”).

"A lot of the music I’ve listened to and loved over the years, I guess you'd consider it singer-songwriter," Rawlings recently told Rolling Stone Country. "Or folk. I don't know what you want to call it. But there's a tradition in that genre of working under your own name... In a way this felt like my first record because of the way the songs were written. It felt like it was time to call it David Rawlings and be done with it."

It's a decision Americana fans have been waiting for. Listen to Poor David’s Almanack a week before its release in the player to the left, and pre-order the album here.