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The Sunday Read: ‘Hard Times’


In the fall of 2018, Hanif Abdurraqib, the author of today’s narrated story, saw the folk duo Gillian Welch and David Rawlings perform live at an outdoor show in Virginia.

Halfway through the show they played “Hard Times” — Ms. Welch’s song about a man, his mule and his plow. A performance that has been worked into Hanif’s memory.

“It’s a patient and heartbreaking song, filtered through a vague but believable promise of something better,” he wrote. “Especially when played live, it feels like you’re nursing an open wound that is slowly stitching itself closed, inch by inch.”

For Ms. Welch and Mr. Rawlings, pandemic isolation has brought about a creative boon.

Listen to this narrated story about how, amid the uncertainties of 2020, the pair have returned to what they know: songs about the slow, challenging, beautiful heat of living.

This story was written by Hanif Abdurraqib and recorded by Audm. To hear more audio stories from publishers like The New York Times, download Audm for iPhone or Android.

ImageRawlings and Welch outside Woodland Studios.
Credit…Kristine Potter for The New York Times

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