Sometimes, just some times, when you are good then good things happen to you.
Mrs. Devereaux had tickets for Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell with Richard Thompson opening at the Beacon Theatre and she gave one to me. So I got to spend an evening with a lovely person, in a wonderful venue, listening to some of the best musicians around today.
Richard Thompson is one of the best guitarists and songwriters around today. His guitar sings the lyrics even better than his voice does. He gets this gorgeous tone with effects that add beauty to the sound. Currently he’s touring with Michael Jerome (drums) and Taras Prodaniuk (electric bass), both of who also provide background vocals. His current cd was recorded and produced by Buddy Miller in Nashville. Although his new cd is not pure country – the Celtic background of Americana was very strong – Thompson’s dark lyrics and music would fit easily on any pure country or Americana album. Thompson’s guitar solos are otherworldly. It wasn’t a sold-out crowd but you could tell that a lot of people were there specifically for either Thompson or Emmylou. I joked to Mrs. Devereaux that every apartment in the Upper West Side must be empty – the now white-haired children of the Sixties were there as well as some of the slightly younger (like my age group) professionals.
Thompson concentrated on songs from Electric and before he started in on the older songs there were shouted requests from the audience. He joked with us and said he would play some of those favorites that we drove so far to hear. Highlights from the new songs included “Good Things Happen to Bad People” and from the older songs “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” He ended his set with “Tear Stained Letter,” with the audience singing along.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have just released Yellow Moon but they have a long history. Crowell used to play in Emmylou’s band and the first song on her first album was one he’d written (“Bluebird Wine”), which they’ve redone on the new cd. Emmylou said the new cd was 40 years in the making. Crowell introduced Emmylou as having the soul of a poet, the voice of an angel, and the heart of a cowgirl. I don’t know anyone who would disagree.
The new cd is very twangy-country. Emmylou asked us if we remembered country music and there was a resounding yes. The set was a mix of old, new, and covers. We heard songs from Gram Parsons (“Return of the Grievous Angel”), Kris Kristofferson (“Chase the Feeling”), Ray Price (the honky-tonk “Invitation to the Blues”), the soundman Donivan Cowart with Hank DeVito (“Black Caffeine”) plus Townes Van Zandt and Waylon Jennings. Emmylou’s version of Matraca Berg’s “Back When We Were Beautiful” almost brought me to tears – “I hated when they said/I’m aging gracefully/I fight it every day/I guess they never see/I don’t like this at all/What’s happening to me?” These songs mixed wonderfully, as did their harmonies, with some of the newer ones like “Old Yellow Moon” and “Tragedy.” Crowell took the lead on “Earthbound,” “’Til I Gain Control Again,” and “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.”
Thompson joined them for “I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” trading off guitar solos with the wonderful Jedd Hughes, who played lead guitar. This was the highlight of a fantastic evening. It’s a shame they only invited him out for one song. Steven Fishell was also great on pedal steel and dobro. They did introduce the rest of the band but I can’t find their names anywhere. There was a keyboard and accordion, electric and acoustic bass, and drums – all were fantastic musicians.
Someone called out a request and Emmylou said, “Elvira!?! I’m glad you know it so we don’t have to sing it.” Emmylou said that sad songs make her the happiest and she and Crowell ended the night with “Love Hurts.” It didn’t have the poignancy of her duet with Gram Parsons (what could?) but it was pretty near perfection.
By Carene Lydia Lopez