Country's Emmylou Harris comes home for new tour

Wed Feb 4, 2009 2:22pm EST
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By Mark Felsenthal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Country music star Emmylou Harris is coming back home again.

Harris, whose award-winning career took off on a mix of her pure, folk-music voice with a hard-driving country rock band, starts a U.S. tour this week with two shows at the Birchmere, a venerable club near Washington D.C., where it all started.

It's a return to her roots for Harris, who went to school in the region and was discovered singing in a bar in the Georgetown area of Washington by ill-fated rock star Gram Parsons.

"As far as my musical career, my life, so much of it emanated from my time in D.C. and the people I met," she said, speaking by phone from her current home in Nashville. "There was a club scene happening where you didn't have to have a record contract, and you could play your own music," she said.

Harris's association with Parsons, who sang with the Byrds and is credited with making U.S. country music cool for younger listeners in the 1970s, brought her to Los Angeles to record and tour with him.

Her solo career took off in the latter part of that decade, and eventually eclipsed that of her mentor, who died a drug-related death in 1973, aged 26.

"He opened my ears and my soul, really, to country music... Gram helped me to find my true voice. I was an imitator up 'til then," Harris says of Parsons, who introduced her to the traditional country musicians who were snubbed by Harris' rock 'n roll loving peers.


<p>Musician Emmylou Harris poses in this undated publicity photo released to Reuters February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Rocky Schenck/Handout</p>