Nashville Obsolete is the second solo outing for ace guitarist and producer David Rawlings, who for nearly two decades has shared the load with creative partner Gillian Welch to become one of folk and country music’s most celebrated duos. Like 2009’s Friend of a Friend, this seven-song mini-album is billed under the Dave Rawlings Machine banner and features a small ensemble that sees Rawlings and Welch swapping roles in what has become their familiar format. His reedy tenor voice that usually melts so effortlessly with Welch’s takes the lead here on a set of melancholic songs that channel tones of Bob Dylan and Neil Young through the Dust Bowl filter that has become his bailiwick. With Welch and former Old Crow Medicine Show member Willie Watson supporting him on guitar and harmonies, the group also includes Punch Brothers’ Paul Kowert on double bass. Beautifully captured on tape with the mix of spontaneity and professionalism expected from a Rawlings/Welch performance, Nashville Obsolete has something of a brooding grandeur to it with standouts like “Short Haired Women” and the meandering, 11-minute “The Trip” feeling bigger and deeper than the small group of players producing them. Aside from some of the added instrumental ornamentations — which are all quite tasteful — this neo-traditional country with a noir bent is familiar territory for Rawlings, and the album files pretty easily into the existing body of work he’s made with Welch, regardless of which one of them is at the front mike. More uptempo songs like “The Last Pharaoh” and “Candy” keep things from becoming overly downcast and the album ends on a high note with “Pilgrim (You Can’t Go Home),” a song that mixes dazzling three-part harmonies with a bit of the latent rock spirit that always seems to be buzzing at the edge of Rawlings’ periphery.
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