Album Reviews

Various Artists

The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris: An All-Star Concert Celebration

Artist:     Various Artists

Album:     The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris

Label:     Rounder

Release Date:     11/11/2016


Emmylou. A fanciful name that to any Americana music enthusiast means Emmylou Harris, period. Just Emmylou. Precious few ladies have embodied country music for as long. She’s remained admirably true, but adapted to, and even blazed exciting new paths. The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris, An All-Star Concert Celebration, honors a true living legend whose wonderful, shimmering voice appears undiminished after 50 years in the spotlight. Thankfully, she was present at the party, taking her first bow following a duet with John Starling—the original lead vocalist in the Seldom Scene—on “When We’re Gone, Long Gone,” a song from her second Trio album with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton nearly 20 years ago. Sadly, Ronstadt and Parton were unable to attend, but Emmylou carries the lament magnificently.

Buddy Miller, the guitarist in her late-90s band, Spyboy, opens the proceedings with a twangy take on “One of These Days.” Miller, along with ex-Black Crowes guitarist, Audley Freed, play with assurance and flair throughout the widely varied set. Don Was on bass; Sam Bush on mandolin, banjo and fiddle; Greg Leisz on lap and pedal steel; fiddler and singer Sara Watkins; and drummer Fred Eltringham complete the core band. They’re an amazing combo. Appropriately, Mavis Staples ties it all together with resilient gospel on “Will the Circle Be Unbroken.” Steve Earle singing “Sin City” seems fitting on the surface, and ends up being extraordinary. He honors both Emmylou and her earliest partner, Gram Parsons, with absolute reverence and self-possession. Another early friend, and recent award-winning collaborator, Rodney Crowell, shines on the pure country of “You’re Still on My Mind.” Countless ladies have been profoundly influenced by Emmylou, and Patty Griffin is one of them. As she moves through “Prayer in Open D,” the channel is obvious, and fantastic. Daniel Lanois, Vince Gill, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Alison Krauss and many others also make stellar contributions. By the end of the evening, this became one of the finest collections of contemporary, classy and real country music you’ll hear, and see, all year.

-Tom Clarke

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