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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Lanois Gives Dynamic Show

October 03, 1995|STEVE HOCHMAN

SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO — If Emmylou Harris singing with Gram Parsons some 25 years ago made for a post-hippie George and Tammy, what does Harris singing with Daniel Lanois make?

A scintillating Sunday evening at the Coach House is the immediate answer. Harris, who in the time since Parsons' 1973 death has explored all corners of the country-folk-rock overlap, sat in for a handful of songs with the illustrious Quebecois musician-producer, best known for his atmospheric sonic sculptures with U2, Peter Gabriel and Bob Dylan.

The show would have been terrific even without Harris' appearance. For the bulk of the show, Lanois, jazz-based drummer Brian Blades and R&B bassist Daryl Johnson brought a vivid live dimension to songs from Lanois' two stunning albums.

Lanois is a guitarist with a brittle, Hendrixian touch and a powerful writer with a penchant for tales of failure and redemption.

But the surprisingly mixture of Harris' familiar belle-like lilt with Lanois' array of unrefined guitar punctuations and soundscapes gave the middle of the show an extra lift. On Sunday the teaming was more compelling than on Harris' Lanois-produced "Wrecking Ball" album, which often sounds like Lanois' music with Harris' voice grafted on. In this teaser of a full tour expected in early 1996, the effort sounded like true collaboration.

Nowhere was this more evident than on an a cappella gospel number, with all four smiling faces pressed closely around two microphones. It was a melting-pot moment--Harris' Southern folkie roots dovetailing neatly with Lanois' French-Canadian foundations and Johnson's and Blades' Louisiana soul.

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