June 19, 2013
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell brought music back to the Downs of Santa Fe with a rockin’, roots-oriented concert on June 15. After an impressive opening set by young singer-songwriter Sarah Jarosz, the crowd was ready for some good country harmonies and lively two-step tunes from a couple of 60-somethings who finally found the time to do a tour together, nearly 40 years after they were introduced. Harris and Crowell didn’t disappoint.
Presented by Heath Concerts in collaboration with AMP Concerts, Harris and Crowell are touring to promote a long-postponed CD. The two old friends just released their first official collaboration, Old Yellow Moon, an album that has been simmering on the back burner of Harris’ mind for ages. “I always hoped we would someday do this record, and now I can finally cross it off my bucket list!” she said.
Back in the ‘70s, after her producer, Brian Ahern, played her a demo recording of one of Crowell’s songs: “Bluebird Wine,” she made her version of it the opening track of her 1975 Top Ten country debut, Pieces of the Sky. Crowell went on to become rhythm guitarist and harmony singer in her now legendary Hot Band, and he soon landed his own solo deal with Warner Bros., releasing his Ahern-produced debut, Ain’t Living Long Like This, in 1978. Harris would quickly be recognized as one of the finest young song interpreters on the nexus of country, folk, and rock, and Crowell himself would become a sought-after songwriter, producer, and performer, whose work would be covered by Johnny Cash, the Grateful Dead, Etta James, and Bob Seger, among countless others—and continue to be treasured over the years by Harris.
Crowell penned four of the tracks, with the rest of the record being filled out by covers of Roger Miller and Hank Devito, among others. Vince Gill, Stuart Duncan and Billy Payne are featured, as well as other members of the original Hot Band. Brian Ahern, the man who introduced Harris to Crowell’s music, produced Old Yellow Moon.
The concert also included a number of songs Harris has sung and recorded herself or with other singing partners, including two of Townes Van Zandt’s classics: “Pancho and Lefty,” and “If I Needed You.” Another memorable offering was a duet on “Love Hurts,” first recorded in the 1960 by the Everly Brothers, and the subject of a subsequent recording by Harris and the late Gram Parsons a decade later.
Crowell and Harris did several songs from their new release, with tight harmonies and high energy
Crowell compares the record’s sound to the Southern California country rock of Linda Ronstadt, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Gram Parsons, and Harris and The Hot Band. Getting back into the studio with Harris, he said, felt “the same as it always had. We were young and foolish and that was lovely and the world was all out in front of us. Then you go on. Emmy and I have always been close over the years, but she went down one road and I went down another, and we’d intersect on occasion. But when we finally got together, it was as if no time had passed. We’re blood in that way.”
Singer-songwriter and mandolin/banjo prodigy Sarah Jarosz opened the show with a rollickingly eclectic set, accompanied by fiddle and cello. The most memorable song was “Ring Them Bells,” a Bob Dylan gospel tune, performed with gusto and feeling, with the unusual instrumentation bringing out the best in Jarosz’s powerful voice.
Heath and AMP have collaborated before, and we hope they will do so again, as Santa Fe needs more quality roots and acoustic music offerings—especially on a cool expanse of grass like the lawn at Downs of Santa Fe on a summer evening.