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Behind every powerful country diva is a retiring gent with a bandana and a 1935 Epiphone Olympic. Dave Rawlings deserves a better epitaph than that, and one day he’ll get it; for now, he seems content to let Gillian Welch reluctantly outshine him while his disciples mutter about how unsung the guy is. Rawlings’ 2009 record—the first he’s released under his own name—is called A Friend of a Friend, which makes sense, given that you’re probably used to getting him secondhand. Witness Rawlings’ reclamations of “I Hear Them All,” the Woody Guthrie-sounding track he co-wrote for Old Crow Medicine Show’s Big Iron World (which Rawlings produced), and of “To Be Young (Is to Be Sad, Is to Be High),” co-written with Ryan Adams. The album’s jewel, though, is “Ruby,” a slow-build anthem worthy of the Dust Bowl minstrels Rawlings so compellingly channels.
THE DAVE RAWLINGS MACHINE PERFORMS AT THE 9:30 CLUB, 815 V ST. NW. 7 P.M. DOORS. $25. (202) 265-0930.