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Posted on Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:15 a.m.

Emmylou Harris enchants in concert at Michigan Theater

By Will Stewart

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Emmylou Harris performing at the Michigan Theater on Friday night.

Melanie Maxwell |

Emmylou Harris has a catalog full of songs to choose from when she hits the stage each night, songs that span not only the annals of country music, but cross over into contemporary folk and rock.

On Friday at the Michigan Theater, Harris chose well, selecting a setlist that enchanted an adoring audience that — let’s face it — was already half smitten.

And why not? Harris, a deserving member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, is bewitching. With a mane of silver hair and a voice that’s both earthy and heavenly, she makes every song she sings her own — whether or not she wrote it.

On Friday, she sang her own songs, like the excellent “Red Dirt Girl,” cherry-picked some of the exquisite covers from her four-decade career and even tackled a handful of bluegrass standards during a well-paced, 90-minute show.

At 62, Harris still possesses a voice for the ages. And even though it sounded somewhat strained at times, it still was capable of imbuing each song with the haunting warmth that is her calling card.

But it’s as an interpreter of other songwriters’ work where Harris really shines. And on Friday, these tunes were the standouts. Tunes like Gillian Welch’s “Orphan Girl,” Billy Joe Shaver’s “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” and her old singing partner Gram Parsons’ “Wheels.”

And while the more ethereal treatments that have marked her recent career were effective, Harris was most effective when she kicked up her cowboy boots and got down with some good ol’ honky-tonk country.

Her band, the Red Dirt Boys, was up to that task, particularly with lead guitarist Buddy Miller heading the charge with his truncated, stinging solos. Harris seemed to have the most fun during these moments, dancing along with the rhythm section and digging into the strings on her enormous Gibson guitars.

After all, for all of her atmospheric leanings, Harris proved on Friday that you can take singer out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the singer.

Will Stewart is a free-lance writer for



Sun, Oct 25, 2009 : 4:11 p.m.

Totally disagree with rochester. Perhaps his wife was the one next to us who spent the whole concert on her blackberry.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 9:52 p.m.

Her music is also available on iTunes. Great voice.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 12:22 p.m.

It's been difficult to find reviews of this current tour, so I thought I would offer some advice to those considering attending future shows on the tour. First, go see Buddy Miller. His set was terrific and intense. Regarding Emmylou's set, if you are a fan of the Red Dirt Girl era groove of Spyboy and the music that group created, this isn't what you are going to get on this tour. There's nothing "incorrect" about the performance, but there's nothing passionate about it either. My wife referred to it as "perfunctory" and while that isn't a complimentary term for an artist I hold in such high regard, I can't disagree. "Red Dirt Girl" and "The Pearl" were rendered unemotional and even Buddy's playing was restrained. If you prefer a more traditional Nashville reading of the Harris songbook than you might be more apt to enjoy this set.


Sat, Oct 24, 2009 : 7:48 a.m.

Sir - spot on review of an excellent concert.