Emmylou Harris Covers Steve Earle’s “The Pilgrim”

Emmylou Harris recently appeared on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert with her band The Red Dirt Boys and gave a moving performance of Steve Earle’s “The Pilgrim.” The song is my favorite from Earle’s bluegrass album The Mountain (1999), so it was great to hear Harris’s wonderful voice giving it a new interpretation and a new meaning.

In introducing the song, Harris touched upon today’s political culture and the plight of refugees. She noted, “This song is for the over 65 million displaced persons around the world.”

And then she began the song.

I am just a pilgrim on this road, boys;
This ain’t never been my home.
Sometimes the road was rocky long the way, boys;
But I was never travelin’ alone.

Check it out.

Harris and The Red Dirt Boys are touring to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her classic album Emmylou Harris and the Nash Ramblers At The Ryman, which was recently re-issued.

What is your favorite cover of a Steve Earle song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The Life and Songs of Emmylou Harris

    On January 10, 2015, a group of great performers came together at Washington, DC’s DAR Constitution Hall to honor Emmylou Harris. To celebrate Harris’s work, Rounder is releasing DVD and CD versions of The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris: An All-Star Concert Celebration, created and produced by Blackbird Presents.

    The performers on the DVD and CD feature many of my favorite artists. The package includes music by Mary Chapin Carpenter, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Vince Gill, Patty Griffin, Chris Hillman, Iron & Wine, Alison Krauss, Kris Kristofferson, Daniel Lanois, Martina McBride, Buddy Miller, Conor Oberst, Mavis Staples, Sara Watkins, Lee Ann Womack, and Lucinda Williams.

    Of course, the celebration would not be complete without Emmylou Harris. She performs “Boulder to Birmingham,” a song she co-wrote about Gram Parsons after he passed away. The song originally appeared on Harris’s 1975 album Pieces of the Sky.

    Below, Harris performs “Boulder to Birmingham” at the celebration concert with a little help from her friends. She begins singing the song alone before the others join her onstage. It is not much of a stretch to see the symbolism in the arrangement, considering how Harris must have felt so alone after Parson’s death. But her fans and colleagues, who in many ways are children of Gram Parsons, remind her that she is not alone. It is a beautiful song, and this performance is a nice arrangement.

    The Life & Songs Of Emmylou Harris: An All-Star Concert Celebration will be released in various forms on November 11, 2016.

    What is your favorite Emmylou Harris song? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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  • Emmylou Harris Covers Steve Earle’s “The Pilgrim”
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    Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell On “The Traveling Kind”

    Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are following up their duets album Old Yellow Moon (2013) by teaming up again on The Traveling Kind. The album, which will be released May 12, is produced by Joe Henry and will feature eleven songs, with six written by Harris and Crowell.

    Below is the title track from the new album, “The Traveling Kind.” Check it out.

    The album will also include a cover of Lucinda Williams’s “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad.”

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    I May Drown in Still Waters

    One of my favorite songs by Merle Haggard is “Kern River.” The song has one of the greatest lines ever written, “I may drown in still waters but I’ll never swim Kern River again.” The line tells you everything you need to know about the song about longing, sadness, loss, and memory.

    Haggard wrote “Kern River” and released the song in 1985 as the title track of the album Kern River. The song was not a number one hit, but it went up to number 10 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Haggard performs his classic below on Ralph Emery’s show as Porter Wagoner looks on, noting that Haggard “is a dangerous man with a song.” Check it out.

    Wagoner is not the only fan of the song. Rolling Stone lists “Kern River” among the essential Merle Haggard songs. Allmusic claims “Kern River” is “one of Merle’s best latter-day songs.”

    Other notable artists have praised “Kern River.” Bob Dylan loves the song, noting the song “is a beautiful lament, but let’s not forget it’s about his girlfriend dying.” Emmylou Harris has claimed that “Kern River” is her favorite Merle Haggard song, and she has recorded her own version of it. Check out her version with images of the real Kern River.

    The real Kern River flows around 165 miles through California, draining around the southern Sierra Nevada mountains northeast of Bakersfield, a town often associated with Haggard for “the Bakersfield sound.” Also, Haggard grew up near Kern River, later building a mansion on the river. The Lake Shasta mentioned in the song is a real place too. Haggard owned a cabin on the still waters of the lake.

    Leave your two cents in the comments.

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    The First Farm Aid

    On September 22, 1985, the first “Farm Aid” was held in Champaign, Illinois. Willie Nelson, Neil Young, and John Mellencamp organized the benefit concert for struggling American farmers. Performers at that concert included a broad range of performers, including Bob Dylan, B.B. King, Hoyt Axton, Don Henley, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty, Merle Haggard, Emmylou Harris, Billy Joel, Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, Joni Mitchell, Charley Pride, Sammy Hagar, George Jones, and Lou Reed.

    Reportedly, the idea for Farm Aid began when Bob Dylan played at Live Aid earlier in the year in July and suggested some of the money from that concert should go to American farmers. While some — including Live Aid organizer Bob Geldof — were upset that Dylan exploited the stage of a worldwide televised concert in support of African famine relief to focus on Americans, other artists used the comment as inspiration for the Farm Aid concert. And Farm Aid benefit concerts continue to this day.

    That September 22 in 1985, the performers did not know that the work would continue for decades. But they joyously sang and played to try to give something back. Below is one of the performances that day in Illinois, featuring Willie Nelson, Arlo Guthrie, and Dottie West singing “City of New Orleans.”

    What is your favorite Farm Aid performance? Leave your two cents in the comments.

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