Emmylou Harris in Dublin. The wtf moments – 13 Sept 2008

Great. Odd. Cool. Naff. Elegant. Country.

The voice is beginning to work a little harder occasionally, but it’s still pretty amazing. The sound system was a teensy-smeensy bit too loud, but overall, she delivered. The standout (for the post-Lanois crowd) was ‘Goodbye’, but for the pre-reinvention crowd, it was probably ‘Boulder to Birmingham’ or ‘Born to Run’. It was a night of odd juxtapositions. People old enough to be my parents clapped along at the really country material, while the younger set were slightly bemused. I got the impression that the crumblies were nodding politely during the credible stuff.

Yet Harris herself delivers the material from each of her incarnations with reverence. And her current credibility works retrospectively; it’s hard to imagine her ever being a slightly campy country belle regardless of the hokey material. The voice is so spectral and other-worldly that it imbues any track with gravitas.

She’s not the most comfortable or charming stage presence; her banter was somewhat politely generic, but the few flashes of genuine smiles came from her when the audience applauded the new material. Which is a good sign…

If Warners/Nonesuch were to ask me to compile an introductory Best Of, this is what I’d suggest. (this was very hard, as I had enough wonderful Emmylou moments for two CDs.


  1. Goodbye from Wrecking Ball
  2. Michelangelo from Red Dirt Girl
  3. Heaven Only Knows from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  4. O Evangeline from Stumble Into Grace
  5. Here, There And Everywhere from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  6. A Love That Will Never Grow Old from Brokeback Mountain OST
  7. Tougher Than The Rest from Brand New Dance
  8. My Antonia from Red Dirt Girl
  9. Orphan Girl from Wrecking Ball
  10. Born To Run from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  11. I Still Miss Someone  from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  12. Boulder To Birmingham from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  13. Wrecking Ball from Wrecking Ball
  14. Mister Sandman from Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
  15. Hold On from All I Intended To Be
  16. Sonny (Mary Black with Emmylou Harris and Dolores Keane) from Twenty-Five Years Twenty-Five Songs
  17. Loving The Highwayman (Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris) from Western Wall : The Tucson Sessions
  18. To Know Him Is To Love Him (Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris) from Trio
  19. Sweet Old World from Wrecking Ball


  1. Paul E

    A tad hard on the old folk, who, as the lady graciously remarked, have been turning up at her concerts for decades now. Old doesn’t necessarily mean musically dead. Bit disappointed at a cheap shot frankly.
    She was wonderful, as always, but it would have been worth it to hear the band alone. The joy of good musicianship.
    It was a night that grew stronger, with stardust moments sprinkled throughout. As my wife remarked, it went by so fast..
    And it was a nice bonus to have Ry Cooder playing before the gig started and the great Band as we were leaving!
    Excellent selection for the compilaton, but I would add the Willie Nelson and Roy Orbison duets, and more.
    But good to see the review, thanks for it.

  2. Pingback: Emmylou Harris, Dublin 2008 | Bock The Robber
  3. eguinan

    Mike, I’m sure a Rauhofer makeover would suit her!

    Paul E: Thanks for the thoughtful comment. I certainly didn’t intend to disparage anyone (the blog tends to be cheeky), but I was listening to the conversations of some of the older folk around me and when Emmylou said “I hope you don’t mind us playing the older stuff” they said “that’s what we want!”. On the other side, I was watching the body language of this young gay Asian guy and he seemed quite startled when the band started rocking out. I guess I’m generalising from these two extreme examples, but I’m not sure of any other popular artist who has had such pronouncedly different (and successful) phases in her career.

    That said there were plenty of older couples who were giving it loads the whole night! (And at least one younger guy who wanted to do a bit of a jive to Born to Run!) 😉

  4. victor

    Saw her last night at Hammersmith Appollo. Initially disappointed when lights went up and it wasn’t Buddy Miller backing her – thought I heard it was gonna be – but fears unfounded – band was excellent with drummer and bass particularly good. Sound system and volume spot on.

    Not keen on her recorded ‘Born to Run’s (voice seems overworked) but she never disappoints when doing it on stage and this was best yet.

    Actually, maybe her voice is now too strong – that hint of frailty was so appealing, the suggestion that she wasn’t going to make it but always did seemed to be missing.

    I’m a little older than she is and can’t get enough of new material – keep on rockin’ and don’t ever get too old, Emmy!

  5. eguinan

    Hi Victor,

    That’s an interesting observation about her singing voice being ‘too strong’. I often felt that about other vocalists such as Dolly Parton, who were strongest when weakest as it were!

  6. victor

    Alison Krauss is another example. When she sings she sounds so frail you want to put your arm around her and say ‘don’t worry, I’ll look after you’ – and then she goes and gets all powerful as if to say ‘don’t patronise me, you jerk’!

  7. Pingback: My first pencil case… « Daddy or Chips?

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