STORY WRITTEN BY GARY GRAFF
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The Dave Rawlings Machine is working a little differently than it did when it released its debut album back in 2009.
Rawlings — a Nashville singer-songwriter who’s married to and collaborates regularly with Machine cohort Gillian Welch — says the troupe’s new album, “Nashville Obsolete,” has a more thematic thread than “A Friend of a Friend.”
“The first Machine record was kind of more of a compilation, almost, because the stuff had been written over a period of time, then we wrote a few more songs to finish up,” Rawlings explains by phone from St. Paul, Minn. “It had a greatest hits for a bunch of records that never were kind of feeling.”
But when he and Welch began writing material fro “Nashville Obsolete,” “there were some themes in there that came in a natural way.”
“We started to see things we were thinking about and things we wanted to explore as writers coming up in these songs,” he says. “They had a certain sprawling, kind of easy feel to them and we just kept going along those lines.
“We knew they were a little different than other stuff we had written but still connected, and that’s always a good feeling to feel like you’re breaking new ground but not completely disconnected from your previous work.”
The duo came up with just seven songs for “Nashville Obsolete,” but several weigh in at five minutes or longer, while “The Trip” stretches to almost 11.
“We were surprised, but it felt like a complete piece as it was,” Rawlings notes. “And strangely, this is the only record I think we’ve ever made where we had the sequence for it before we were even done with the recording and even some of the songwriting. We could kind of see the shape early on, so that helped to guide us as well.”
Rawlings and Welch have reason to trust their instincts, of course, especially when it comes to songwriting. The two received a Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriter at the Americana Music Awards in September, though Rawlings says — jokingly — that the couple wasn’t exactly sure how to take it.
“We didn’t now how we reached the lifetime achievement award point of life, but we’ll take it,” he says. “We thought maybe they wanted us to stop or were telling us they’ve had enough, ‘You’ve done plenty. …’
“But it was a nice thing, and what meant the most to me was seeing the songs recognized on their own, to know they traveled out there past what we can do with them. Other people play them recreationally or professionally, or record them. That’s a great vote of confidence for a writer.”