BY ADAM PERLMUTTER
Almost exactly a year ago, on Christmas night of 2019, Charlie Rauh was visiting the home in Virginia where he had learned to play guitar as a teenager. When his family went to sleep, he set up a studio in the dining room and used his Collings Baby 1 Mh to record The Bluebell (Destiny Records), a collection of solo acoustic guitar miniatures inspired by the poetry of Emily Brontë and her younger sister Anne. After he completed the album, Rauh started wondering about an instrument whose voice would be even better suited to the album’s unique sound world, and he worked with Collings to make that a reality. “We hatched the idea of a parlor guitar that would specifically accommodate my light touch, while having a warm tone and projection,” he says.
When Rauh received his Collings Parlor 1—with its Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, satin finish, and La Bella silk-and-steel strings—he first played selections from The Bluebell and was immediately blown away by how the instrument turned out. “For my solo guitar work I had never quite found a guitar that embodied the dry, open, ringing, and warm sound in my head,” he says. “The parlor completely nailed it.”
Rauh recently used his new guitar in filming a video for The Bluebell’s “Faith Shines Equal Arming Me From Fear,” transcribed below, a piece that takes its name from a line in Emily Brontë’s poem “No Coward Soul Is Mine.” “In this particular lullaby I wanted to capture the spirit of Emily—a deeply rooted confidence combined with an always wandering, searching, and adventurous soul,” Rauh says.
“Faith Shines Equal Arming Me From Fear” is played in the key of E minor, with a judicious combination of fretted notes and open strings creating beautifully textured harmonies. Though Rauh composed it in waltz time, he tends to play the piece with a largely free rhythmic sense and subtle variations between repeated sections. “The free sense of time in this lullaby is a reflection of how I read the poem, he says. “There is an implicit time feel, but I don’t need to stay regimented. I like the idea of having a structure in mind but allowing each performance of the lullaby to have its own space and time.”
The composition ends where it began, on the II chord (F#), rather than the more predictable i (Em)—a harmonic strategy that Rauh chose to convey openness. He says, “For me, ‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’ portrays a sense of the eternal. With this lullaby, I wanted to try to make something that begins, develops, and closes in a way that hopefully leaves the listener with some element of wonder.”