Emmylou Harris still shines on
Berklee Performance Center Boston, Oct. 17, 2000
BOSTON - Emmylou Harris is an aging country singer with her silvery gray hair. But never ever mistake aging for some sort of lack of creativity, especially when it comes to a singer vibrantly making music that matters several decades long into her career.
While many former stars are being put out to pasture, Harris, 53, still has the voice and quality songs, at least if her long ago sold-out show was any indication.
Once upon a time, Harris was the kind of country artist played on radio. During the '70's and '80's, Harris scored seven number ones, but the last time she even hit the charts was 1989.
That's no reflection on the quality. It's more a reflection that Harris is not au courant playing pop. Harris grew more and more experimental over time, especially with "The Wrecking Ball."
One aspect that has stood the test of time has been Harris' voice. In concert, it was the paramount force behind her music. She sang seemingly effortlessly throughout whether on straight-ahead country songs, country rockers hearkening back to her Gram Parsons days ("Hickory Wind"), more atmospheric meanderings from her more recent albums and the amalgam of new material on "Red Dirt Girl," her latest.
New songs including "The Pearl," "Michelangelo" and the title track held up quite well during the nearly two-hour show.
Harris, humorous and warm in her comments, including lamenting the usual state of the Red Sox on a night when the hated Yankees advanced to the World Series, had a very strong backing band anchored by ace guitarist Buddy Miller.
Miller, who has several albums of his own, sparked the music whether on guitar no matter the style of the song and mandolin. The rhythm section of drummer Brady Blake and bassist Tommy Hart maintained steady hands as well.
Patty Griffin opened with a fine set showcasing one strong voice and material to boot. The red-headed singer also had Harris sing back-up on one song, "Mary," an ode to her grandmother who came to Boston from Ireland, and returned the favor in Harris' set. It was easy to see why Harris had Griffin open.
This was a night of an artist still churning out quality music and one who could have an equally long career.