Poor David’s Almanack by David Rawlings on Acony Records
Reviewed by Harry Kaplan
Don’t adjust your set! Almanack is not spelled incorrectly. The more common spelling is almanac, but this one is correct as well. Portions of this album are very reminiscent of the golden age of Neil Young. Somewhere in the Harvest and After the Gold Rush realm. That is definitely my sweet, sweet spot.
Poor David’s Almanac has a nice country aura to it with some noise and a bit of fuzz at times. As I have stated in other artist reviews, David picks his spot to use the effects. The music doesn’t need it though. The other accompaniments are just for accent and they work beautifully. Great writing and singing is the hallmark of Poor David’s Almanac.
Rawlings is also known as a very talented producer, producing albums by Gillian Welch, Willie Watson, and Old Crow Medicine Show. David attended the Berklee College of Music which explains his musical prowess. He also leads the Dave Rawlings Machine with Gillian Welch, Willie Watson, Paul Kowert, and Brittany Haas. He contributed to the album Heartbreaker by Ryan Adams, with whom he wrote two songs, “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High)” and “Touch, Feel and Lose”.
Having the history helps explain that David Rawlings has musical street cred. Rawlings also plays 1935 Epiphone Olympic. This guitar has a very unique sound, because they really don’t make guitars like that anymore. This ax has a carved arched solid spruce top, carved arched solid mahogany back and mahogany sides. It sold for about $35 in 1935, which was probably a good chunk of change. I couldn’t even imagine what that guitar would cost today if it was made to those specs. He found this guitar in a friend’s attic and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is an extremely easy listen. I won’t even call this ear candy, it is better than that. This is a folk, country, and bluegrass melting pot. More like ear crack. Also, he uses a saw on one of his songs. Yes, you read it right. In the song Yup (Track 8), there is a part that includes a saw. It makes a very eerie, “haunted house” sound. This is a beautiful, somewhat traditional Appalachian type number. Really, really fine track.
Dave is also known for his partnership with Gillian Welch. She plays a large role on this album, having backing vocal duties. Her voice is the perfect marriage with Rawling’s voice. They really do turn two voices into one. A perfect union.
I mentioned Neil Young earlier so I need to deliver. Cumberland Gap (Track 3) sounds like it is directly out of the Neil Young catalog. Alas, it is not a Neil Young song. I haven’t heard many artists who embody the essence of Neil better than David Rawlings on this number. I could also say this song draws from the Fleetwood Mac well. A really powerful song.
If you have a preference for more subdued numbers, fear not young captain. Lindsey Button(Track 5) is a beautiful, understated song that draws its strength from some very powerful vocal skills. The lead and backing vocals, along with some soft instrumentation, make this song special. Wow! That’s all I can write.
A truly “must own” album. If you call yourself an Americana fan and you don’t own this, you should be embarrassed. Maybe that is a little strong. Just buy it, it is a damn good album.