Hammersmith Apollo 9th May 2013
Emmylou Harris is one of a kind, with a voice to die for that remains virtually unchanged since her 70's heyday. Her once auburn hair is a now a stunning steel grey and for a woman of 66 she is remarkably handsome.
Collaboration has been a big part of her career from Gram Parsons and Dolly Parton to Linda Ronstadt and more recently Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller and of course another legend of the county scene, the great singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell. The pair go way back to Emmylou's Hot Band days (that also featured amongst other fine musicians the amazing guitarist Albert Lee). Rodney wrote one of the first songs they collaborated on, Bluebird Wire - which they performed tonight. The song also features on their new album Old Yellow Moon which could well be one of the best country albums of the year. Their voices blend beautifully and the album features some spine-tingling harmonies. A fine example of this is the hauntingly moving and vocally exposing Back When We Were Beautiful, which was amazing to hear performed live – you could have heard a pin drop at the Hammersmith Apollo. It certainly showed Emmylou's prowess as a vocalist.
Emmylou said how she has 500 songs in her head and jokingly suggested that she has little room to remember much else. The appreciative audience would have spent the whole night listening to everyone, if there hadn’t been an 11pm curfew. The nearly 3 hour long show was a example of what stellar musicians these veterans are. The varied set featured something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue to mark this musical marriage made in perfect harmony! Hanging Up My Heart is a punchy country toe-tapper, the bluesy Black Caffeine was a pleasant break in the mostly country set, and very reminiscent of Bonnie Raitt. The Patti Scialfa penned (borrowed) Spanish Dancer in the hands of Harris and Crowell becomes a powerful ballad and Darling Kate written about the late Kate Mcgarrigle, was a beautiful heartfelt tribute to a friend.
It was also great to hear some tracks from the classic Luxury Liner Album. The fast and furious title track gave Jedd Hughes the opportunity to show off his guitar skills. This young guy hails from down under, but you'd never believe it to hear him play. It sounds as if he was born and bred in Nashville! I'll Be Your San Antone Rose, Tulsa Queen and the Townes Van Zandt classic Pancho and Lefty had the crowd cheering, but I feel that being a classic of Emmylou's it could have featured later on in the set.
Being a collaborative concert, it wouldn’t be complete without hearing some songs by Grammy award winning Rodney Crowell, such as Till I Gain Control Again. A highlight of the evening was Long Time Girl Gone By, a song recorded by Emmylou on Rodney's 2012 album Kin which she had never performed live. (If you don't know it I urge you to download this rarity from Itunes immediately, you won't even find it on You Tube!)
There were a few grumbles from the audience about poor sound quality as some for the vocals sadly got lost in the mix. Whilst Crowell graciously allowed his leading lady her place in the limelight, although I am sure it wasn’t his intention to be left in the dark when the uneven lighting meant that he spent the majority of the evening in shadow. Despite this the audience gave the concert a standing ovation and were left screaming for more. The new Queen and King of country? Quite possibly.