REVIEW: Emmylou Harris and the Red Dirt Boys on Thursday at the Winspear

Emmylou Harris

Let me start by saying that I like Emmylou Harris, but I can’t say that I’ve followed her enough to know much from her catalog save some signature tunes. But I had to see her. I mean, it is Emmylou Harris, and while I can’t say she disappointed, she wasn’t quite what I expected.

On tour for her 2011 release Hard Bargain, Harris played a healthy set of old and new Thursday night, coming in just over the two-hour mark. With an impressive catalog of 26 albums, she wasn’t short for material. She opened the show with the new “Six White Cadillacs,” a playful tune that set a welcoming tone. Without missing a beat, she followed up with “Orphan Girl” from her 1995 landmark album Wrecking Ball. A song I liked, but this is where the unexpected part began.

“Orphan” has a middle pacing that’s not too slow and not too fast. It coasts on beautiful guitars and mid-tempo beats. Which is fine, but almost every song after it followed this same formula. Regardless of the quality of the songs, the pacing was so even-keeled that it was a couple of shades shy of boring. She did punctuate it with a couple of rousing ditties, but the first one came an hour into the show. If she had just added two or three more of those, it would have had a better flow.

—  Rich Lopez