With a stellar backing band, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell took the stage for the first of their sold out two-night stand at Nashville’s City Winery last night. There’s a deep familiarity shared by the two legendary artists who have been friends for 41 years, and that casual air defined their performance. It was one of those nights where everyone in attendance was glad they were there, no matter what transpired in the hours to come.
The first half of the set was a run-through of the songs off their new album, The Traveling Kind, from the winsome title track on down. As easy-going as the set was, various flickers of personality worked their way off the stage. In the middle of the politically charged bluesy groove of “The Weight of the World,” guitarist Jedd Hughes and keyboardist Micah Hulscher traded solos, each showing a bit of the phenomenal talents they brought to the table. (Rounding out the band was Steve Fishell on steel guitar, John McTeague on drums, and Mike Rinne on bass.) Later, Harris highlighted the classic country sass of “If You Lived Here Now, You’d Be Home” by singing with one hand on her hip. Closing out the album tracks was “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad,” the kind of tune the Americana genre was made for.
“Wheels” kicked off the second half of the evening followed by “Pancho and Lefty” and, a few songs later, “If I Needed You.” As great as those tunes are — particularly in these hands — after four decades, maybe it’s time to let them rest. In between those cuts, Crowell offered up “Till I Can Gain Control Again,” which he played for Harris 41 years ago on the second day of their friendship. Roger Miller’s “Invitation to the Blues” and Boudleaux Bryant’s “Love Hurts” preceded the swampy grooves of “Stars on the Water” and “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” at the end of the set.
For the encore, Harris’s “Red Dirt Girl” and Crowell’s “Ain’t Living Long Like This” eased into the evening’s closer, “Old Yellow Moon,” which they introduced with a shout out to the song’s writer, Guy Clark, who was in the audience along with Gretchen Peters and, quite likely, a handful of other musical greats. #Nashville