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At the Ryman

Emmylou Harris has had a hard time getting on the radio in the past few years. That’s probably because her innovative approach to country music — from her bluegrass-flavored Roses in the Snow to her semiautobiographical concept album, The Ballad of Sally Rose — hasn’t conformed to Nashville’s commercial expectations. At the Ryman continues in this tradition, as she returns to the former home of the Grand Ole Opry for a live performance of sparkling tunes, many of which date from the glory days of this historic Mother Church of Country Music. Harris starts out wobbly on Steve Earle’s ”Guitar Town” before recovering to deliver a stirring yet dignified performance, her keening soprano turning transcendent on Stephen Foster’s ”Hard Times” and the Everly Brothers classic ”Like Strangers.” Equal credit for this spectacular set goes to Harris’ new all- acoustic band, the Nash Ramblers. They’re the best backing ensemble of her career (with Sam Bush, formerly of New Grass Revival, on fiddle and mandolin) offering the kind of exquisite picking and vocal harmonies that most lead singers only dream of. Harris’ career may be sagging on the record charts, but radio’s loss is the true country fan’s gain. A

At the Ryman
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