Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball | The ArtsCenter | Clubs & Concerts | Indy Week
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Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball 

When: Fri., Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. 2017
Price: $16

Between her early collaborations with Gram Parsons and her long, rich solo career, Emmylou Harris was already the undeniable queen of Americana before she released her milestone album, Wrecking Ball, in 1995. But the game-changing record took her career to a whole new, unexpected level. Daniel Lanois, the sonic alchemist who had made his name by producing albums for U2 and Peter Gabriel, helmed the record, but it was his transformation of Bob Dylan's sound on 1989's Oh Mercy that presaged the magic he worked with Harris.

Lanois had cut the Dylan record in New Orleans, and with a coterie of handpicked players, he created a swampy, swirling sound around Dylan that was simultaneously organic and hypnotically otherworldly. He did much the same for Wrecking Ball, bringing Harris to the Crescent City and utilizing many of the same players, plus U2 drummer Larry Mullen. Harris was forty-eight at the time, the same age Dylan was at the time Oh Mercy was released. But like Dylan, Harris wasn't too old to learn some new tricks. In place of the straightforward country and folk approach of her previous albums, Lanois brewed a heady mix of haunting, ambient textures, transmogrified New Orleans grooves, and flashes of psychedelic voodoo.

The material chosen for the album—songs by Dylan, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Neil Young, Gillian Welch, and others—could have fit comfortably on Harris's previous outings, but the tunes were given an entirely different spin, with Harris making the most of Lanois' sorcery and delivering some of the most poignant performances of her career. Wrecking Ball earned Harris a Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Recording, and it altered the path of not only her own career but Americana in general, redefining what roots music could encompass.

It shouldn't be terribly surprising, then, that even twenty-two years after Wrecking Ball's release, a batch of modern-day Americana artists would be inclined to mount a tribute to the momentous LP. That's exactly what's on tap at the ArtsCenter with Emmylou Harris's Wrecking Ball: Live in Concert. A perfect storm of local talent convenes to salute the songs and the sound that made such a major impact on contemporary roots music. Billie Feather, Dale Baker, Mark Williams, Taylor Leonhardt, Sara Zaleta, and Angela Winter will pool their talents under the guidance of Tim Carless for this one-off event. Together, they'll take the audience through the entire album, from "Where Will I Be" to "Waltz Across Texas Tonight," putting their own artistic stamp on the tunes in the process.—Jim Allen

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