Last Night: Emmylou Harris At Verizon Wireless Theater

emmylou june23 aa.JPG
Photos by Jason Wolter
Emmylou Harris & the Red Dirt Boys
Verizon Wireless Theater
June 22, 2011

The song about the Italian painter wasn't in the set, and at the end it seemed like it was the only song not in the set, but watching Emmylou Harris and her Red Dirt Boys paint the curtained-off Verizon Wireless Theater Wednesday night with melodies as old as the hills felt like a private audience with Michaelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. No wonder they call her a Renaissance woman.

Harris sings like she's confiding a great private truth, or like she's leading a prayer meeting. Many times during the evening a great stillness descended on the room, the kind you don't often see outside a religious service. Even without overtly gospel songs like bluegrass rave-up "Get Up John" and mandolin-laced waltz "Green Pastures," the set was so suffused with spiritual imagery it belonged on a higher plane. Are there honky-tonks in heaven?

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Some of that imagery, such as Gillian Welch's "Orphan Girl," issued from Harris' many disciples, but some of the most stirring ("The Pearl") came from her own pen. One of the few voices who can match Harris' for sheer purity, Lubbock native Kimmie Rhodes, came out late in the set to give some celestial harmonies to Mark Knopfler's lullaby "Love and Happiness" and "Shores of White Sand," a sort of cross between Annie Lennox's Lord of the Rings hymn "Into the West" and the story about the mysteriously disappearing pair of footprints on the beach.

Sipping something out of a Styrofoam cup (hot tea, probably) and sounding like she might be nursing a cold, Harris has the good sense to keep a healthy sense of humor about the gravity of her material. "Kern River," she said, is "my favorite Merle Haggard song... it's so depressingly sad it had to be my favorite." Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," on the other hand, was equally slow and emotionally plaintive, but "suitable for weddings and parties."

Harris is a storyteller inside her songs and out, instilling civil rights-era Mississippi murder ballad "My Name Is Emmett Till" and homeless diary "Home Sweet Home," both from her new album Hard Bargain, with journalistic detail. "O Evangeline," from 2003's Stumble Into Grace, could be a sequel to the similarly titled song Harris performed with The Band in The Last Waltz - after she watched her riverboat gambler sink into the Mississippi, "the nights were so hard and mean, you shed them like a skin."


Location Info

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Bayou Music Center

520 Texas Ave., Houston, TX

Category: Music

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13 comments
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Creg
Creg

This stuff is awesome

read&learn
read&learn

BAE lost its' contract because it lost the bid - a little thing called the "market place" - you know "capitalism" - thought you guys believed in that sort of thing...

vandolele
vandolele

How sad it is that performers come here and can't even give their opinion without people like texasforever chastising them - I saw Peter Gabriel tread lightly when he mentioned our President simply dancing to one of his songs - sad that people like texasforever give credence to our "redneck" reputation - last time I checked NASA was doing fine - people still come from the world over for our healthcare and after 20 years in the energy industry I'm still here and so are all my friends - sounds like someone is listening to a little too much FOX news - try reading the Houston Chronicle - it's a hometown favorite!

NASA Engineer Music Fan
NASA Engineer Music Fan

I have a public education. I also work as a Rocket Scientist for NASA - 25 years - Civil Service. I also worked for General Bolden. Who are you? Our Space Program is still the best in the World. The President has not destroyed NASA. He has given it more money than before. We are all in a hard place by years and years of previous decisions. You are a hater.  Emmy is great...

Maggie_May
Maggie_May

But, I thought Your Governor had made Texas the Number 1 Job State?  (We all know most of the economic damage the country has suffered began with Our Former Governor.) 

Wish I'd seen this show.  I did catch Emmylou, Gram, Neil & Linda at Liberty Hall.  I'll make a note to see her next time she comes through town.  

And I'll make a note to keep voting Democratic. 

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

Emmylou has a wonderful voice, great 'roots' choices in material, and puts on a great show.

What's not to love?

TexasForever - I chose not to be dragged into your troll-comment-world. Peace, brotha.

Myself
Myself

Spyboy had black musicians

Wyatt
Wyatt

"as far as I know there as never been a black musician in any of her bands."

What the hell does that have to do with her opinion of the president? Please go back to chron.com.

GW
GW

When I was a weird kid from Kentucky and Canada, I thought Emmy was the most beautiful creature gracing this Earth. And damnit, she's still a solid top-ten for me. Her hair is--how do I put this elegantly--really really ouch HOT. Oh, and she's also a performer of near mythic greatness. In her case, and not in, say, Gram Parsons, that greatness is deserved and proven a thousand times over. BUT, now that I know how she supported the wholesale destruction of NASA, as well as the dismantling of  some country's "world-class health system" (not sure what country that refers to, but that's certainly an awful bad thing)), I'm thinkiing that her voice, and taste, and talent, and last and least her beauty, mean nothing. She's clearly a monster, and my independant, self-thinking mind is made up.

GW
GW

And I misspelled "independent."

Maggie_May
Maggie_May

You also missed the definition of "independent."  Because you just parroted the political thoughts of another poster.

Gw.
Gw.

That was kinda, ummm, the joke.

048
048

So you don't agree with her...how exactly does that make her a "hater"?

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