Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell in concert

Profile photo of Junior Wells Junior Wells / Nights Out7 Comments

emmy and rodney


Palais, Melbourne

Date: 25/06/2015

I first saw Rodney Crowell in a small sit down event a few years ago. He played acoustic and had another guitarist with him.It was around the time of the Sex and Gasoline album. I remember writing on the old website that after seeing so many uninspiring, mediocre gigs this was one to remember, one that restored my faith. Such a songwriter, such turn of phrase, such strong melodies. He’s continued that fine form with last year’s TarPaper Sky still on high rotation at Junior’s pad. He has also put out a book on his childhood “on the wrong side of the tracks” in Houston.

I’ve seen Emmylou Harris twice before and have a bunch of her records but still she underwhelms me. Sure she has a voice as pure as driven snow, crack bands, excellent song selection, But something about her is, well, boring. She deosn’t appear to have much personality. Crowell’s songs on the other hand and his lived in face speak of a life doing the wrong things and ,for me, the music is the better for it.

So onto the gig. Just the one show and not a sellout. Heaps of grey air in the audience and on stage ,after all Emmylou is 68 and Rodney is 64. You can tell they are there to see Emmylou in the main.The first few songs are”ok” with the sound patchy, vocals too low then thing improve when they play Rodney’s classic til I gain control again.What a song, never get sick of it. More Emmylou songs than Rodney’s and she takes the lead more often. But for me and Mrs Wells it was the Crowell songs with him on the lead vocal that lifted things. Aint Living Long Like This , Houston Kid, Stars on the Water – there coulda shoulda been so many more.

They’ve done 2 albums together which have done well and showcased some off the latest album Travelling Kind. Back to Memphis is a good rocker a la John Hiatt and a song about the couple breaking up “but at least we tried is sad and effective but…sorry to bang on about this, but some of the stuff featuring Emmylou on that album is ,to quote a friend insipid.I

In usual Melbourne style, polite applause throughout was followed by massive applause at end including sustained standing ovations that seemed to impress them. As touched on above the sound was patchy- first vocals too soft, then about right then soft again, then the guitar solos too soft. Cant be that frigging hard can it – not a huge band , simple p.a set up .You gotta wonder.

Conclusion – a good show, would have been better with Emmylou as Rodney’s backing singer.

The audience:

Old, A lot of big blokes with big heads blocking the view

It made me think..

It made me think about Dylan and the debate about what constitutes a great singer. Emmylou’s voice is still note perfect and bell like .But I’d much rather listen to Crowell with less range but far more energy and personality.


7 Comments on “Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell in concert”

  1. Profile photo of retropath2

    Interesting review: guess I intrinsically disagree, but then I am 40 years smitt’on Emmylou. Seen ’em alone and together, and feel that the problem with a lead or solo Crowell is his tendency to go all rowdy and think he’s cowboy elvis, rushing thru’ his slower and more reflective songs in favour of rabble rousers. His stint with the live Transatlantic sessions was a case in point, with, as he came to believe he was the headline, and I guess he was, so he upped and over-egged his rockabillyisms.

  2. Profile photo of Junior Wells
    Junior Wells

    Fair comment @retropath2 I’d say most people would profoundly disagree. He does love his rockist stuff from the Cherry Bombs onward. We got little of the quieter stuff last night that I saw last time or you can see on that NPR video.

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