Emmylou Harris on the Cayamo Cruise
Mar 1, 2008
What a beautiful woman. That’s the first thing I want to say about Emmylou. She is a silver fox. I kept saying to everyone around me, if God could come down as a woman he would appear as Emmylou. She has queenly dignity, motherly warmth and feminine beauty, besides having a voice that conveys a lifetime of wisdom, insight and emotion.
She came out on stage wearing tan suede boots, a dress with a pattern in blues and browns and an open brown silk shirt over the dress. Her hair was a gorgeous, silver mane. She told the audience, “I’m sixty! Sixty is it!” Her back up band included the ubiquitous Buddy Miller, Chris Donahue on bass and Brian Owens on tambourine. She grabbed a guitar and said, “Wrong guitar! I need the third fret one - they don’t let me touch it or I’ll mess it up. I’m from the time when they pumped your gas for you!” She played, “Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town”. While Buddy helped with her guitar she said, “What would Buddy do?” And they did, “Sweet old world”, and “Wheel”. She did a song about Jesse James which she introduced by saying, “I wrote and recorded this next song with Mark Knopfler. It’s a strange song for me because it’s relatively happy!”
She did a lot of tunes and then Shawn Colvin came out wearing a black newsboy cap. Emmylou said, “This is a song about being a parent. My kids are grown up and we worry. My mother is in the audience and she worries about me. Shawn’s daughter is nine and she worries about her. They sang “Love and Happiness for You”.
She did a heartbreaking song of faith called “Orphan Girl”:
Her husky, honest, voice makes me think of stars over deserts. Sometimes it thins out to a gauzy breath and yet gives depth and resonance to every harmony. She takes up residence in each song, and expresses it anew as if she never sung it before. The songs fell like flower petals on us; bedtime stories, firelight within, love songs, songs of faith, lost love, and pathos. She said she was friends with Johnny and June Cash and wrote a song when June was going to get out of the hospital. They both passed away soon after that and she said she thought that June probably dropped the song in her lap, “Strong Hand, (For June)”.
She said, “One of my best friends with one of the best voices is Linda Ronstadt. I love singing with her.” She said they did an album a few years ago called the “Western Wall”. A few people in the audience hooted (I was one of them) and she said something like, “Oh you bought the two copies we sold. My mother bought the rest!” (I did a review of that album and I loved it.) She wrote a song for that album with Kate and Anna McGarrigle called, “All I left behind”. Lovely.
She did a few duets with Buddy, among them a real pretty love song called, “My Antonia”. I read in an interview that she put the song aside after starting to write it because it was written from a man’s point of view. (Like the book written by Willa Cather?) Then she toured with Dave Matthews and he offered a unique harmony and became, in her words, “the leading man” for the song.
I cried when she sang the Everly Brothers’, “Love Hurts” with Buddy. That’s what I mean about an old song that she must have sung a million times before but that still sounds fresh. She first sang it with Gram Parsons in the 70’s. Another Emmylou composition was “Michelangelo”. It reminded me of Leonard Cohen’s, “Suzanne.” I read in an interview that the song came to her in a dream, and that one of the lines was inspired by a line of Carl Sandburg poetry that she rewrote. Another exquisite composition was “The Pearl”. Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin sang harmony.
At different points she mused about people who might come on the boat. “Love the boat!” She said many times during the cruise, “Would the McGarrigles come on the boat? Would Lucinda Williams come on the boat?”
She did several songs with Shawn Colvin and Patty Griffin, although the sound wasn’t balanced correctly and it was hard to hear the harmonies. They did another tear-jerkin’ song about eternal true love, entitled, “When we’re gone - long gone”.
Emmylou honors and acknowledges the other musicians playing with her, giving them credit and praise throughout the set. She has been working for years to cross-pollinate musical styles with performers of different musical genres and has traveled all over the world participating in music festivals like this one. I was thrilled to be in her presence.
Photo by Genevieve Lessard, Cayamo Cruise 2008
Kimmy Sophia Brown has loved humor and music and freedom for as long as she can remember.She is especially passionate about the environment and caring for animals.
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