This celebrated live album had Emmylou backed by one of the best ensembles of her whole career (The Nash Ramblers), and it earned her a Grammy. The concert was so significant that the Ryman auditorium (which was set to be demolished) was actually preserved and remodeled.
The set Emmylou played that night paid equal debt to both classic and contemporary American tunesmiths. Songs by Stephen Foster (“Hard Times”) were played side to side with songs by John Fogerty (“Lodi”) and Bruce Springsteen (“Mansion On The Hill”).
The performance itself is not only very well-recorded, but Emmylou is charming from start to finish, interacting with the public at every turn, cracking jokes and narrating stories of her life on the road – the one before “Lodi” is one of the funniest I have ever listened to.
One of the definitive highlights of the album is the vocal “Calling My Children Home”, whereas the bluegrass numbers (most notably “Walls Of Time”) basically redefine the expression “raise the roof”. The same can be said about the instrumental piece “Scotland”.
I could find no video of Emmylou & The Nash Ramblers that night, but I did find this one. It was their last performance together, circa 1995. Enjoy!
I am also very fond of “Like Strangers”, yet another Everly Brothers’ cover. Emmylou is one of the very few performers I know that can do their songs in a way that is natural and effective at the same time. Remember what I said about Emmylou’s ability to render other people’s songs? This particular tune is a prime example.
I must admit that I am not very keen on live albums. To give you an idea of how deep that aversion runs, I don’t even listen frequently to the many live Who CDs I have. On the other hand, this album and the 10,000 Maniacs “Unplugged” disc are the live recordings I put into motion most often.
The only complain I have is that not a single signature tune of hers is included. No “Love Hurts”, no “Beneath Still Waters” and no “Two More Bottles Of Wine”. The last one in particular would have stood its ground like nothing else here.
As a conclusion, Emmylou’s live recording is one that warrants all the hype. It is professional, charming, evocative and hard-driving at the same time. It is also an excellent point of entry into her discography, even if not a single hit is featured. I have no reservations recommending it to you.