Born closer to the Hills of Beverly than Appalachia (her parents were writers for the Carol Burnett Show), Gillian Welch's (pictured) folksy music transports a listener to the threshold of present and past, a musical dream-state Bob Dylan referred to in a recent album title as Time Out of Mind. Performing with her partner and producer, the wicked guitar-picker David Rawlings, Welch's gorgeous country ballads and up-tempo jaunts mingle references to ancient country or blues songs with personal narratives of a postmodern life spent whisking through airports and cities. It's the strange mixture of displacement and discovery that makes the music so good--you find yourself in a place where America makes sense for a second, where its distant oldness and digital newness seem to line up for a moment in one of Welch and Rawlings' gorgeous harmony duets. This is the same kind of place Billy Bragg and Wilco got to when they updated Woody Guthrie's lyrics; it's the place Dylan seeks out now in his Love and Theft, riverboat-gambler persona; it's the place critic Greil Marcus wrote about as America's "invisible republic," that "old, weird America" whose strange echoes always hauntingly reappear: comforting, confronting, soothing, or terrifying us with their history. It's the place Welch perhaps refers to in a song's double title, "Wayside/Back in Time," on her new CD, Soul Journey. One may go "Back in Time," but this is only a "Wayside" from which we always glance backward, as if we were on the back of the caboose of a train, always hurtling forward down the tracks.
8 p.m. Tickets for the show are $21, advance purchase. For more information, call 560-3040 or visit www.carolinatheatre.org.