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Concert Reviews:
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell give a history lesson in Royal Oak

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, September 19, 2015

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ROYAL OAK -- The relationship between Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell runs much deeper than the two successful duo albums they`ve released during the past two years.

And they were sure to let anyone attending their concert on Friday night, Sept. 18, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre know that.

The show -- a sublime exposition of rich harmony singing, excellent songwriting, tasteful arranging and some hot playing -- celebrated a 40-plus year friendship and creative relationship, dating back to when Harris grabbed Crowell's "Bluebird Wine" to open her 1975 album "Gilded Bird." He went on to play in her Hot Band for a few years, but it took the better part of four decades until they became a full-fledged team with 2013's Grammy Award-winning "Old Yellow Moon" and this year's "The Traveling Kind."

And as much as Friday's show was ostensibly promoting the latter, the nearly two-hour concert's 25-song set was more of a history lesson, grabbing songs from throughout each of their careers, whether it was Harris' musical apprenticeship with the late Gram Parsons ("Ooh Las Vegas," "Return of the Grievous Angel") or her own Grammy-winning solo work ("Red Dirt Girl," "Tulsa Girl") or Crowell's deep body of work ("Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight," "Even Cowgirls Get the Blues"). They fortified the show with stories about their association, including the first time they met, and Crowell even sang "Bluebird Wine" at Harris' behest, as he did for the "Old Yellow Moon" album.

The high points were plentiful, whether it was the emotionally wrenching quiet of Matraca Berg`s "Back When We were Beautiful," the Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts" or Crowell's "'Til I Gain Control Again," or lively dust-ups such as the Flying Burrito Brothers' twangy "Wheels," Harris' "I'll Be Your San Antone Rose," Roger Miller's "Invitation to the Blues" or "Bring It On Home to Memphis." The duo's five-piece band, and particularly guitarist Jedd Hughes, elevated every song, none moreso than a romp through the International Submarine Band's "Luxury Liner" and a rendition of Crowell's "I Ain't Livin' Long LIke This," both lengthy jams that gave each of the soloists a bit of spotlight.

The show certainly left anyone at the Royal Oak hoping that Harris and Crowell DO live long as a duo. And not surprisingly, when she noted at the end that, "We've gotta get on the bus and go somewhere else. You wanna come?," there were plenty of wishful takers in the crowd.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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