Don't My Baby Look The Sweetest

sweetest1 • Seeing Emmylou Harris in concert is one of the highlights of my life in Los Angeles. No question about it. • I don't have any photos of the concert because it was being taped for the BBC, who would understandably be annoyed if the crane camera panned the crowd to find a large man in a red plaid pearl-snap taking pictures of the talent. • The show was for a series the BBC cooked up called "The Ten Commandments of Country," in which one assumes they'll have a string of artists come up with what they consider to be the 10 guiding rules of the genre. Emmylou didn't hold that rigidly to the concept, opting instead to offer a few suggestions/observations and focusing on playing the kind of music that she does best: The stripped-down, honest, pure kind of music that will never stop being classic. It reminded me of home, and of being at rest. • At one point, Emmylou said, "If love didn't hurt, there'd be no country music." This is the gospel. • I can't help but refer to her as Emmylou. Working in journalism has bred into me the deep-seated habit of referring to people or artists by their surname on second reference, and that carries over into my critical writing, as well. But Emmylou is one of the rare exceptions to the rule — others include Willie and Elvis — where a performer's first name is infinitely more evocative and definitive of their music and personality. I could never get by with referring to her as Harris. It's just too impersonal somehow. I think of her simply as Emmylou. • I won the tickets through LAist after stumbling rather fortuitously upon this entry during a rare free moment at work. The site was auctioning off a pair of tickets to the person who could "most convincingly (identify) his or her favorite Emmylou song performed with another artist." This was no small task to set before me; questions like this will make me shut down completely and think about an artist and all the songs of theirs that I love until I find myself gazing slackly at the wall. Plus, though some of the other commenters/entrants seemed only briefly versed in the basics of the written language, they weren't above pulling out the big guns in hopes of winning. One person named-checked 9/11, which come on, that's like cheating. • But this is what I wrote: "This is a tough one. Emmylou has performed so many amazing songs with other artists over the years that it's hard to pick just one. But I have to go with 'That's All It Took,' with Gram Parsons, from Parsons' GP. Instead of the backing harmony vocals she provided on the other Parsons tracks, she comes blasting out of the gate on the second half of the first verse, her voice all fire and power as she howls: I tried so hard to let you go, but look how I still tremble at your name. That's all it took. It's a sad, powerful song, and the kind of Cosmic American music that would influence the rest of her career, from country to folk to bluegrass to gospel. I love it for all those reasons, but also because of the honesty and pain in her voice as she sings." • Less than 12 hours later — I'd entered the contest not long before the deadline for submissions — the folks at LAist let me know I'd won. It's a weird feeling to win something based on a display of emotional outpouring, and even weirder when that gift is concert tickets to one of the greatest artists in her field and someone you wouldn't mind having semi-adopt you as a kind of grandmother figure, who would sing you a song and maybe give you some lemonade. • I guess I'm saying it was quite a show, and the fact that I'd earned entrance simply by being a fan, by writing about some small part of what I love about music and life and heartache — I don't know. That was good.

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