Emmylou Harris, owner of country music's most ethereal voice, a hillbilly goddess who seems to have descended from the heavens, landed at The Pabst Theater last night along with Rodney Crowell, a very competent backup band and one heck of an opening act in Richard Thompson.
Shall we start at the beginning?
Thompson, for those who aren't familiar, once led Britain's answer to The Byrds, Fairport Convention. From the day he started electrifying traditional music he's been scaring the bejeesus out of anyone who entertained silly notions that they could actually play the guitar. As radical as Hendrix in his own way, he takes ancient Celtic melodies places they have never been and brings them back cross-eyed and dazed.
Had he done only that, it would be impressive, but he also writes brilliantly dark, funny songs and then sings them with an urgency that make his contemporaries in the punk rock trenches sound tame. After his brilliant recordings with Fairport and ex-wife Linda Thompson, he scored more points here and there with his solo records, including a minor hit and major crowd pleaser, "52 Vincent Black Lightning."
Watching Thompson perform that solo, it was easy to envision guitarists scattered throughout the audience with their jaws on the floor. Apart from a brief solo set in the middle of his show, he did everything with his very sympathetic trio. They obviously understood the premise — this guy is Mark Knopfler for people who prefer to stay awake at shows. His guitars sound like they are strung with barbed wire and the light filtered down on his beatific smile. You had to think this is one happily twisted man. And he is back with a vengeance.
The camaraderie and bonhomie exhibited by the headliners Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell wasn't cooked up by record company publicists a few months ago in a rehearsal studio. These two go all the way back to mid-1974 when Harris was searching for songs for her first WB record and found his to be perfect. Their fri…Read more...