Wednesday, August 22, 2007


George Graham, in a review of Gillian Welch's CD Hell Among the Yearlings makes two interesting comments. On Welch's sound -- "is a songwriter....who can authentically evoke the sound of old-time Appalachian folk and country music" and "her ability to create authentic-sounding old-time songs." Obviously both of these statements contain the root authentic, and are used in slightly different ways. "Authentically evoke" is a bit different from "authentic-sounding." I'm fairly sure of what is meant by "authentic-sounding" but not by "authentically evokes." The latter rings of channeling or some spiritualistic enterprise. But let's assume Graham means similar things. The reason these statements are even in the review is because Gillian Welch was raised in well-to-do Hollywood family, much like Randy Newman, and polished her "authentic" old-timey craft at the renowned Berkeley School of Music in Boston. This is also where she met her guitar playing collaborator David Rawlings This makes her an "interloper" as a friend calls it, into the real Appalachian music scene, compared to someone who might have emerged from a West Virginia hollow with a banjo and no formal education. Hence the terms "authentically evokes" or "authentic-sounding." What Graham is saying, in essence is that she's a fake, but a damn good one. OK. Does it matter?
That to me is the essential question. Does it affect one's interpretation and appreciation of her music to know that she wasn't a Kentucky coal miner's daughter? Does it somehow cheapen or otherwise taint what she has created?
Comments, as always, are welcome.

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