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Harris Stands Tall In Country Field

May 20, 1986|ROBERT HILBURN

Emmylou Harris may be the Larry Bird of country music. Just as the basketball star was masterful in virtually every aspect of the Celtics' game Sunday afternoon, Harris demonstrated the ability a few hours later at the Universal Amphitheatre to bring an aura of greatness to songs that touched on almost every category of country music.

Harris established herself in the late '70s as perhaps the most compelling female singer ever in country music as she moved freely from bluegrass to rock to traditional weepers. She may not be pioneering new areas with the same speed as before, but that's largely because there is less new territory to explore.

Backed during Sunday's two-hour show by a reshuffled Hot Band, Harris (wearing an uncharacteristically flashy purple jacket and black micro-mini skirt) remained a textbook of emotion and craft. Who else can you picture singing tunes associated with such varied artists as Merle Haggard, Bruce Springsteen, Chuck Berry, Loretta Lynn and the Louvin Brothers--and arguably doing them even better than the originals?

Dwight Yoakam, who opened the show, was reviewed recently in these pages.

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