Emmylou Knocks ’Em Down With Live “Wrecking Ball”

photo by Chris Allen see more photos

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost 20 years since Emmylou Harris recorded her seminal, Grammy-winning album Wrecking Ball. Released in 1995 and produced by legendary rock producer Daniel Lanois (U2, Neil Young, Willie Nelson), the album saw Emmylou venture away from her traditional country songs to a more experimental and eclectic rock sound. It also took her career in a different direction, leading her to work with people in the rock and alt-country genres such as Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams and Neil Young, proving she wasn’t afraid to try something new.

Wednesday night (Oct. 24) at the Marathon Music Works venue north of downtown Nashville, Emmylou again decided to try something new—performing Wrecking Ball in its entirety with some of the same players who recorded and produced the original album. The concert, benefitting Crossroads Campus, an organization that brings together at-risk folks with homeless pets, featured an all-star guest list, including Daniel Lanois, multi-instrumentalist and producer Malcolm Burn, bass player Jim Wilson and drummer Brian Blade.

Before Emmylou got down to the task at hand, she warmed up the packed house with a handful of songs from her 2000 album, Red Dirt Girl. Running through songs such as “The Pearl”, “Michelangelo” and “Tragedy,” the iconic country chanteuse explained that Red Dirt Girl was a continuation of the atmospheric sound of Wrecking Ball, making it a perfect addition to the set that was to follow.

Daniel’s signature electric guitar sound—more rock than country—announced Wrecking Ball's opening track, "Where Will I Be?" But instead of recreating the album in order, Emmylou and the band surprised the crowd by changing up the track list for a set more suitable for a live concert.

When it came time to perform the Steve Earle-penned track "Goodbye," Emmylou surprised the audience once again by bringing out Steve to accompany her on a few songs. Following a rousing rendition of "All My Tears,” effectively closing out the Wrecking Ball set, the band ended the show with a version of Daniel’s 2006 single "Maker." By the reaction, it was easy to guess that many in the crowd were there just as much for the legendary producer as they were for Emmylou.

As the show ended and the band took their bows, Emmylou thanked the crowd and her mother, who was in attendance, and expressed her excitement that something like this "actually worked." It worked for her in 1995 and it definitely worked 17 years later, giving her fans a special performance for a very special cause.

Set List

photo by Chris Allen see more photos
  1. "Love Hurts" (duet with Malcolm Burn)
  2. "Red Dirt Girl"
  3. "Evangeline"
  4. "Strong Hand (Just One Miracle)"
  5. "Jupiter Rising"
  6. "Michelangelo"
  7. "Tragedy"
  8. " The Pearl”
  9. “Where Will I Be?”
  10. “Wrecking Ball”
  11. “Blackhawk” 
  12. “Waltz Across Texas Tonight”
  13. “Orphan Girl”
  14. “May This Be Love”
  15. “Deeper Well”
  16. “Goodbye”
  17. “Every Grain of Sand”
  18. “Sweet Old World”
  19. “Goin’ Back to Harlan”
  20. “All My Tears”
  21. "Maker" (Daniel Lanois)

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