Dave Rawlings Machine’s debut album, A Friend of a Friend, was definitely one of the best under the radar records of last year. Though Rawlings is well-known among alt-country types for his musical partnership with Gillian Welch and contributions to Ryan Adams songs, Bright Eyes albums, and a number of other artists’ recordings, this is his first stab at taking the spotlight alone, and he does so with such endearing humility and musicianship that it won’t be easy for even the most diehard folk music detractor to hate on these songs.
The album includes mostly cover songs and a few originals, including Ryan Adams’ “To Be Young (Is To Be Sad, Is To Be High)”, a song that Rawlings co-wrote and performed on from Adams’ debut solo album, Heartbreaker. The standout track, however, is a medley of Bright Eyes’ “Method Acting” from Lifted and Neil Young’s classic Zuma song “Cortez the Killer.”
Welch and Rawlings strip away all the youthful over-emoting from Oberst’s original recording, turning the song into the dirge it was meant to be, IMO. The fact that the chords and melody morph so easily into “Cortez the Killer” is a huge testament to Oberst’s songwriting abilities, not to mention the fact that Rawlings is proud enough of the connection to release it as an epic 9-minute jam.
Rawlings, Welch, and Bright Eyes/Oberst/Rilo Kiley/Cursive collaborator Nate Walcott did a Daytrotter session recently at Elliott Smith’s former studio, New Monkey, performing “Ruby,” “Sweet Tooth,” and this “Method Acting”/”Cortez” medley. And all I can say is it’s a damn shame that Walcott’s trumpet part isn’t on the album version.
Stream and/or download the Daytrotter session here.