In concert: Gillian Welch at the Music Center at Strathmore


Gillian Welch’s return was well worth the wait. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

Fresh from a set at the Newport Folk Festival last weekend, where she earned a hero’s sunburn (she told us) shielding 92-year-old folk icon Pete Seeger from ultraviolet rays, Welch and longtime collaborator David Rawlings brought their Bindle full of melancholy Americana to the cool, acoustically pristine chamber of Music Hall at Strathmore Tuesday night, performing two glorious sets that came to 21 songs and about 105 minutes of music all-in.

Eight of the new songs found homes in the program among classics like “Orphan Girl” (a Welch original that only seems like a standard because Emmylou Harris recorded it first) and a Flamenco-inflected cover of Jefferson Airplane’s Vietnam-era head-trip “White Rabbit” that did exactly what covers are supposed to do — recontextualize the song, not to mention the singers.


Welch strayed from her setlist to indulge a request for “Keys to the Kingdom,” a highlight, as was the evening’s sole solo-Rawlings composition, “Sweet Tooth.” “I’ll Fly Away,” the Dust Bowl hymn Welch repurposed for the “O Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack, soared, but was no more sublime than the new stuff.


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