Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Live in 2014: Emmylou Harris & Daniel Lanois - The Colston Hall, Bristol Tuesday May 27th 2014

From the mid 1980's to the early 1990's Canadian Daniel Lanois was on top of the world as a record producer - having produced albums such as U2's Joshua Tree, Peter Gabriel's SO and Robbie Robertson's eponymous debut. His ambient and atmospheric approach to sound helped many of these artists to reinvent themselves for their audience.

In 1994, it was Lanois' debut solo album Arcadie and his production of Bob Dylan's No Mercy that brought him to the attention of Emmylou Harris.

From the 1990's, Emmylou's profile was staring to slip as the radio programmers switched their attention to the younger CMT influenced Country Artists.
But in 1994, Emmylou got together with Daniel Lanois and in 1995 recorded one of the best albums of the  90s. It was called Wrecking Ball.

So this very short UK tour is a 20 year celebration of that album, which has been re-released in a deluxe format.

Emmylou says during the show that this was the album that reignited her love for music and it shows in the performances tonight.

The show opens with Dnbiel Lanois taking to the stage to play a pedal steel guitar - it featured his now trademark echo and sustain and was a precursor of the delights to follow. I, like most of the crowd probably, had wondered how he would achieve the atmosphere that is on the record. He has his own small box of tricks that he uses with his guitars and recreates some terrific sounds, which just goes to prove how little keyboards are actually used on the original album. He does a sterling job with just himself, Steve Nistor on drums and Jim Wilson on bass.

Daniel then performs his own set of songs from his albums such as the French infused Jolie Louise and ended his set with an improv song which he entitled Bristol Town. 
The set warmed up the crowd nicely and after a short break, Emmylou appeared for the main event. The performance of Wrecking Ball in it's entirety. The album has a timeless quality to it. It's not really Country and it's not really rock.

The songs absolutely shimmered and glowed tonight as Emmylou and the band worked their way through the album.

One of the many highlights for me was the title track Wrecking Ball where Emmylou's tremulous and delicate vocal breathes new life new into the Neil Young penned song.

photo courtesy of

Many of the songs on the album have been written by the best songwriters that music has to offer including Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Earle & Lucinda Williams.

It was a brave decision to take back in the 90s but the results were to colour the pallete of many of Emmylou's future solo recordings such as Red Dirt Girl & Stumble Into Grace.

After the last song - Waltz Across The Ocean - there was a tremendous applause and then Emmylou went on to talk about the reissue and what the album meant to her. She had also recorded two of Daniel Lanois' songs from his Arcadie album in the recording sessions for Wrecking Ball. And she the preceded to give her interpretations of Still Water & The Maker - both excellent tracks at least one of which deserved a place on the original release - although both can be found on the new deluxe version of the album.

photo courtesy of

After the obligatory standing ovation and encore, Emmylou and the band came back to give us the classics Boulder To Birmingham from the 75 album Pieces Of The Sky and & Townes Van Zandt's Pancho and Lefty from 77s classic Luxury Liner.

She then remerged to give a gorgeous version of  Calling My Children home before finally completing the show with the Jesse Winchester song, Songbird. Which is wrought with emotion as Jesse only passed away in April after a long fight with cancer.

But this just gave added poignancy to an evening dedicated to a classic album sung and played with integrity and emotion. 
Come back soon Emmylou. The audience loved you. 

Twitter - @ EmmylouSongbird  @daniellanois 

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