Being deemed “living history up close” can be seen as an insult to many a veteran artist, especially those who are still pursuing their crafts with dignity.
But in the case of Emmylou Harris and Richard Thompson, the phrase is meant from here with nothing less than praise. And that they still have some terrific tricks up their sleeves is even more cause for celebration.
For more than four decades now, songbird Harris has reigned supreme as what can best be described today as the “Queen of Americana.”
Her classic recordings from the '70s – most notably the full-length sets “Elite Hotel,” “Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town” and “Blue Kentucky Girl,” put her on the map as one of the finest interpreters of song in any popular music genre and fared well in the country music mainstream, but in terms of exposure, she was hardly in the Parton or Wynette sects. Her place as an interpretive stateswoman would have been secured based on her '70s output alone, but a revival, which started with 1995’s “Wrecking Ball” and continues to this day, found favor with the-then flourishing Americana/alt-country community and beyond.
Last month, the grand songbird released “Old Yellow Moon,” a collaborative effort with one of her genres finest songsmiths, Rodney Crowell. On “Moon,” the duo try their hand at a handful of Crowell originals as well as songs penned by the likes of Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, and the results are as brilliant as expected.
Thompson got his start in the public eye a few years before Harris as a member of the pioneering British folk ensemble Fairport Convention before flying the coop in the early '70s. That decade, he recorded a series of sets with his then-wife, Linda, most notably 1982’s sadly beautiful “Shoot Out the Lights,” and continued on his own ever since (gems of note: 1988’s “Amnesia” and 1999’s Mock Tudor”).
One of rock and folks most overlooked gems as well as one of its most underappreciated guitarists, Thompson also made his way to the record racks and online shops earlier this year with “Electric,” which is another fine addition to his near-peerless catalog.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, Richard Thompson, 8 p.m. March 20, Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. $35-$65. FYI: (312) 294-3000, CSO.ORG
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Yngwie Malmsteen, May 4, House of Blues (17 and older, HOB.COM)