Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell bring country music ‘like it used to be’

By Aayat Ali

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Grammy-award winning musicians Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell wrapped up their tour in support of their new album, “The Traveling Kind,” Sunday at the Lexington Opera House.

Although both Harris’ and Crowell’s music has been around for decades, there were murmurs of excitement among the crowd as the musical veterans were about to hit the stage. The crowd broke out with applause and whistles as they opened with a new song “I Just Wanted To See You So Bad.”

Harris, during the concert, said she first met Crowell in 1974 and was immediately a fan of his songwriting after hearing “Bluebird Wine.” Harris decided to cover it and use it as the first song on her second studio album, “Pieces of the Sky.” This prompted her to hear more of what he had to offer, and she recorded another one of his songs for her album, “Elite Hotel.”

Soon after, Harris invited Crowell to join her backing band, The Hot Band. They continued to collaborate for the next 38 years and eventually put out their first album, “Old Yellow Moon,” which won Best Americana Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in 2014.

“We can already tell you’re fans of country music — like it used to be,” Crowell said.

Despite just recently releasing a collaborative album, the connection between the two artists has been clear for a long time. Crowell contributed to several of Harris’ past performances and achieved his own commercial success in the 1980s with his album, “Diamonds & Dirt.”

Being an activist for environmental, feminine and animal issues, Harris spoke about her opposition to mountaintop removal and urged the audience to help stop it before. She then dove into a cover of Matraca Berg’s song “Back When We Were Beautiful.”

The chemistry between the musicians showed through their commentary. The two reminisced over the days “when they were brunettes.”

The playful dialogue was coupled with “sad, depressing and (realistic) songs,” which Harris claims is their forte.

Filled with upbeat tempos and a lengthy guitar solo by Australian guitarist Jedd Hughes that brought the sold out crowd to their feet, the last half of the concert led into a rendition of the ballad “Old Yellow Moon,” in which they sang the lyrics, “As I turn back the years, so little I’ve learned about heartache and tears.”

The show concluded with a four-song encore, which included a jammed-out version of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” off of Harris’ album “Blue Kentucky Girl.”