Having effectively stolen the hearts of music fans over the last six years, Emmylou Harris has set about ridding the body of her work of its few drawbacks. At the Merriweather Post Pavilion Saturday night she showcased a new, streamlined sense of pacing that has finally ordered her varied styles into a cohesive whole. The 10,000 fans in attendance reacted ecstatically.
Harris is much more than the country singer she's most famous for being. Like the old guard of popular song, she exhibits exquisite taste in the songs she chooses to interpret. This pop facility creates subtle connections between songs as disparate as Dolly Parton's "To Daddy," the Drifters' "Save the Last Dance for Me," Credence Clearwater Revival's "Bad Moon Rising" or the timeless folk ballad, "Wayfaring Stranger." The one-time Washingtonian manages to look forward through the past, whether it be a Beatles ballad, a bluegrass classic, or the truck stop/honky-tonk sermonettes of a brilliant new songwriter, Rodney Crowell.
Harris' willowy and by now thoroughly distinctive soprano seemed more elastic than ever, flowing from crystal sensuality to aching sadness or compelling and gutsy insistence. The Hot Band that backed her continues to earn its name, even filling in with distinction on the "Mr. Sandman" harmonies originally sung by Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. Adjectives like pure and seraphic are frequently tagged to Emmylou Harris. She does sing rings around her competitors and she does sing wings around her songs; both actions make an Emmylou Harris concert a truly uplifting experience.