Emmylou to grace Amphitheatre stage
Twelve-time Grammy Award winner Emmylou Harris is one of the most celebrated and accomplished artists of our time – and she plays The Banff Centre’s Shaw Amphitheatre,Thursday (Aug. 9).
With a crystalline voice, a remarkable gift for phrasing and a restless creative spirit, she has travelled a singular artistic path, proudly carrying the torch of “cosmic American music” passed down by her mentor Gram Parsons.
Whether as a solo artist or working with Mark Knopfler, Daniel Lanois, Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, or Bob Dylan, her music remains as heartfelt, visionary, and vital as her earliest recordings.
Harris was born on April 2, 1947 to a military family stationed in Birmingham, Alabama. After spending much of her childhood in North Carolina, she moved to Woodbridge, Va., while in her teens and graduated high school there as class valedictorian. After winning a dramatic scholarship at the University of North Carolina, she began to seriously study music, learning to play songs by Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
Celebrated as a discoverer and interpreter of other artists’ songs, Harris has, in the last decade, gained admiration as much for her eloquently straightforward songwriting as for her incomparably expressive singing.
On Hard Bargain, her third Nonesuch album, she offers 11 original songs – three of them co-written with Grammy– and Oscar–winning composer Will Jennings – that touch on the autobiographical while reaching for the universal. Few in pop or country music have achieved such honesty or revealed such maturity in their writing.
Forty years into her career, Harris shares the hard-earned wisdom that—hopefully if not inevitably – comes with getting older, though she’s never stopped looking ahead.
In her songwriting, she also recalls the storied time she spent with Parsons (“The Road”) and composes a sweet remembrance of the late singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle (“Darlin’ Kate”) and the time they spent together, right up to the end.
Harris locates poignancy and fresh meaning in events both historical and personal. On “My Name Is Emmett Till” she recounts a violent, headline-making story from the civil rights era in a heartbreakingly plain-spoken narrative, told from the murdered victim’s perspective; on “Goodnight Old World,” she fashions a bittersweet lullaby to her newly born grandchild, contrasting a grown-up’s world-weariness with a baby’s wide-eyed wonder.
“Big Black Dog,” with its loping canine-like rhythms, is also a true tale, about a black lab mix named Bella. Harris, who runs a dog shelter called Bonaparte’s Retreat on her property, rescued Bella from the Nashville Metro pound and provided an especially happy ending to her story.
“She goes on the tour bus with me now, along with another one of my rescues. I think of all the years on the road I wasted without a dog. They make it so much more pleasant. I’m making up for lost time now, that’s for sure.”
Tickets for Emmylou Harris (6:30 p.m.) are available at The Banff Centre box office at 1-800-413-8368 or 403-762-6301.
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