When Emmylou Harris brought her all-acoustic band to town a few months ago, it was so new she hadn't named it yet. At Wolf Trap Tuesday night, the band had a name -- the Nash Ramblers -- and a sound to rival any of its predecessors'.
The best-known member of the quintet is mandolinist and fiddler Sam Bush, formerly of New Grass Revival. Along with dobroist Al Perkins and guitarist Randy Stuart, Bush consistently wove dashing yet neatly tailored solos around Harris's affecting vocals or provided a crisp rhythmic backup for "Roses in the Snow," "Heartbreak Hill," "Sweet Dreams," a string of tender waltzes and a vibrantly swinging rendition of "How High the Moon." The show included a brief but soulful set of tunes by former Seldom Scene member (and longtime Harris supporter) John Starling, as well as an encore Harris-Starling duet of "Satan's Jeweled Crown." But even if it hadn't, the Ramblers' string band thrust alone would have been sufficient to recall Harris's early days performing folk and bluegrass in and around Washington, or as she called it, "the hometown of my heart ... and music."
With their tight harmonies, traditional instruments and crafty songs, the O'Kanes proved to be an ideal opening act.