SXSW runs a tight ship — your set had better be finished in time to set up the stage for the next act. But when you’re country royalty like Emmylou Harris, exceptions are made.
Harris was given free reign over her allotted time, and she used it to perform her forthcoming new album Hard Bargain in its entirety. Album producer/guitarist Jay Joyce and multi-instrumentalist Giles Reeves, who did triple duty on drums and keyboards/bass, joined Harris, who informed the audience the trio on stage is the same on the album. Reeves in particular did an impressive job juggling two instruments, keeping time on a minimal drum kit while providing bass lines and pads on the keys.
Hard Bargain puts the focus once again on Harris’ songwriting. As she told the audience, she’s fond of a sad song, and the quiet set she performed is chock full of songs she loves. It’s the kind of aching beauty that permeated Red Dirt Girl, an album that I thought was heavy-handed with the aching and the beauty.
A question for select members of the audience — why go to a quiet acoustic show if all you’re going to do is yak yak yak all through it? I probably could have paid more attention to the music if youth and extroversion didn’t combine in such idiotic fashion. Not all of us love to hear you fuckers talk.