Emmylou Harris (10/27/2009)
No matter how many songs Emmylou Harris sings or how many chords she strums, this legendary artist consistently sounds fresh and vibrant. At the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, Wisconsin, I had the pleasure of seeing Emmylou and her Red Dirt Boys, along with special guest and opener Buddy Miller. The outstanding opening set included standbys and original songs written by the artist and his wife, Julie Miller. To the audience’s delight, Emmylou took the stage with Miller to join him on two songs.
Emmylou was every bit her unmistakable self. Cowboy boots, which she told the audience she purchased at Zappo’s; fishnet stockings; and signature swingy white-silver hair rounded out her country glam look. Her show included several songs from the recent release All I Intended to Be, including Merle Haggard’s “Kern River” and Tracy Chapman’s “All That You Have is Your Soul.” The playlist also featured “Red Dirt Girl,” “Michelangelo,” “Blackhawk and the White-Winged Dove,” and “Lost Unto This World.”
Harris’ fans know that, while songs like this are lovely, the lyrics can sometimes become heavy and depressing. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who was glad to have a few upbeat tunes in the mix, such as “Born to Run,” “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” and “Two More Bottles of Wine.” Harris and her band are fun to watch; passion for their art and appreciation for one another radiate from the stage. An intimate vocal collaboration on “Calling My Children Home” highlighted the group’s synergy and complementary talents. Bill Monroe’s “Get Up John (the Baptist)” ended the show. A standing ovation brought Emmylou and the band back on stage for a lilting, swingy rendition of “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
Two full hours of Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys was enough to send the audience home humming happily, hopeful that Emmylou’s next tour will bring her back to Madison.