Emmylou Harris/Josh Ritter
Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., March 18, 2011
Emmylou Harris/Josh RitterRadio Day Stage, Austin Convention Center, Thursday, March 17
Hosted by Rita Houston and broadcast live in New York City, the WFUV showcase saw Emmylou Harris as her typically captivating self as she previewed two tunes from her upcoming album, Hard Bargain. First the songbird performed "The Road," a song about her time with Gram Parsons. That subject is never something she's demurred talking about, but hearing her speak eloquently about their relatively brief time together was enlightening. As to why she choose now to address the country-rock pioneer (a term he hated, she claimed), Harris said: "You can't be haunted by the past. He impacted my life and changed its direction." In a floppy brown cowboy hat and matching tinted glasses, she also talked about "Darlin' Kate," a goodbye kiss she wrote to her musical compadre Kate McGarrigle, who died last year after battling cancer. After a short break, Brooklyn-based tunesmith Josh Ritter turned in a six-song set. Ritter's a competent tunesmith, but continues to lack the musical characteristics to distinguish himself from a host of other contemporary songwriters. A cover of "Moon River" was beyond his range, but the set closing "Girl in the War," dedicated to "the folks in Japan," struck a resonant chord.