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The skinny on David Rawlings' guitar...


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GILLIAN WELCH AND DAVID RAWLINGS

 

Gillian Welch’s main guitar is a ca. 1956 Gibson J-50 with a factory-installed adjustable bridge. "It’s pretty much just like a J-45," she says. "It’s blond, and it’s got a big ugly pickguard on it." A couple of years ago, she picked up a five-string Vega Senator banjo, which she’s specially modified "with a little bit of bubble wrap shoved under the head."

 

David Rawlings gets his signature, midrangey guitar sound from a 1935 Epiphone Olympic archtop with a carved top and plywood mahogany back and sides. He likens its sound to that of a resophonic guitar. "I bought it without a bridge," he says, "and had a one-piece mahogany bridge made for it. I think with a top this small it really behooves you to get as much stuff touching the top as you can, because the top doesn’t have that much flex to it." He says his guitar is unique in that every note on every string plays at the same volume. "It doesn’t have any dead spots or any high spots—which is very, very strange," he says. "It makes it fun to play lead, because you don’t have to worry where you’re at. It’s not much of a solo instrument, but I can’t really play by myself worth a darn, so it doesn’t make much of a difference."

 

Welch and Rawlings switched their stage amplification rig in 1996 from pickups and DIs to external microphones. Rawlings explains that the change has made setting up for shows easier, although they do need to be a bit more hands-on during setup than they used to be. "We carry Shure SM-58s and SM-57s," Welch says. "Fancy microphones can be very difficult. The one thing that’s nice about the Shures is that their quality control is low enough that they are all different. They’re like snowflakes. If we carry a complement of eight microphones, we can go into a hall and find the right one for the room and the system. We play the microphone game; we swap them out." "And it’s easy to control volume by changing the proximity to the mics," Rawlings adds.

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......but I can’t really play by myself worth a darn.....

Yeah, right. Who is he trying to kid? The guy's amazing! They do complement each other so well. I hope I get to see them play live someday. It's on my bucket list.

 

Thanks for the info, Jsg!

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One of the VERY best shows I ever caught was when they played the Handlebar in Greenville, SC several years back. A storm had knocked out the power, so they played the first half of the show in pure acoustic mode, totally focused. The (small but packed and reverential) house was utterly silent, early summer evening light coming in through the huge old windows - just exquisite.

 

When the power came back on, they chased us all out, finished setting up, and then we all trooped back in for a more standard show. It was top notch then, but it wasn't as intense as the totally unplugged first half had been.

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Saw them in a big old 1920s movie theater in Atlanta about a year ago, "opening" for Bright Eyes (or something like that).

 

Jeeeeez Welch and Rawlings were great. In that old hall, the big Gibson was beautiful and full. The vocals really were like angels singing. Welch even commented how great it sounded in there.

 

Most of the folks came for the headliner. Many around us asked who the two were? But even the uninitiated were impressed with the singing and guitars (and a few songs with banjo). Bright Eyes were good. But after three or four songs, it was an early exit for us old folks.

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Gillian's guitar sounds great- who says that the adjustable bridge J45/J50's don't have tone? =P~

Not wild about David's sound... just not an archtop guy I guess. I do like the approach of just mic'ing the guitars. Interesting comments from David about Shure 57's/58's... I have a whole box of them and any one is just like the next. I wouldn't usually use one for live mic'ing a guitar, but it seems to serve the purpose well.

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I've seen them once-- David is a terrific guitarist. What I find interesting is that suddenly' date=' this el-cheapo archtop model he uses is unavailable. If one turns up, it's already sold- and for a good price!

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Just for example, here's one for only $2K

 

http://cgi.ebay.com/1944-Epiphone-Zenith-Acoustic-Archtop-Near-Mint_W0QQitemZ260382715721QQcmdZViewItemQQptZGuitar?hash=item260382715721&_trksid=p3286.c0.m14&_trkparms=72%3A1205%7C66%3A2%7C65%3A12%7C39%3A1%7C240%3A1308%7C301%3A1%7C293%3A1%7C294%3A50

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Just for example, here's one for only $2K

 

Sort of my Point--- this is/was a $650 guitar before Rawlings. I know someone who sells archtops on line, and he says these old cheap Epis have mostly disappeared- or tripled in price.

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Good to see you again, OWF!

 

Another thing that Gil and Dave have popularized is that vintage tweed case they carry to their shows. These things used to sell on eBay for $35.00 tops. Now, you're lucky if you can buy one for $$280.00! If you've got one of these in your attic or basement, you're smart to sell it on eBay right now.....

Gearbox.jpg

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