Emmylou Harris - guitar, vocals; James Burton - guitar; Rodney Crowell - guitar; Glenn T. Hardin - piano; Hank DeVito - pedal steel; Emory Gordy - bass; John Ware - drums; Nicolette Larson - vocals; Fayssoux Starling - vocals
After establishing herself as the female vocalist in country-rock pioneer Gram Parson's Fallen Angels band, Emmylou Harris was devastated by his death in 1973 and left at a musical crossroads. With the help of Linda Ronstadt, who deeply admired Harris, she relocated to Los Angeles and soon signed with Warner Brothers. One of the conditions of her 1974 recording contract was that she was required to "get a hot band" together. Harris wasted no time recruiting fellow her Fallen Angels -- guitarist Rodney Crowell, pedal steel guitarist Hank DeVito, bassist Emory Gordy, and drummer John Ware -- into her band. Additionally, she enlisted guitarist James Burton and pianist Glenn T. Hardin, both veterans of Elvis Presley's band. With this formidable group of seasoned musicians, Emmylou Harris & the Hot Band was born, recording the albums Pieces of the Sky and Elite Hotel, both released in 1975.
Harris & the Hot Band took to the road in 1975, perfecting their live repertoire. Combining traditional country music's honesty, folk music's heart and intelligence, and country-rock's punch, Harris and company inherited Gram Parson's vision and took it to the next level. Harris gave her musicians the freedom to develop superb instrumental solos and this combined with her haunting crystalline soprano voice, soon gained the attention of audiences both inside and outside the country genre. Harris would continue to honor her mentor, Gram Parsons, throughout her career, but her taste and intelligence in choosing material soon gained her a large cross-over audience at a time when this was virtually impossible to achieve.
This concert, recorded on the final night of a three-night run at San Francisco's Boarding House over Thanksgiving weekend in 1975, captures Harris and band at a peak early moment. The first night of this run had been broadcast on KSAN radio to help promote the shows and it was a sold-out house, inspiring a memorable high energy performance.
Occurring right between the releases of her first two albums, it's not surprising that there is a heavy focus on that material. Many of the most enduring songs from those albums are featured in her sets at this time. Her interpretations of highly recognizable country standards, such as Buck Owens' "Together Again," Hank Williams' "Jambalaya" and Merle Haggard's "Tonight the Bottle Let Me Down" all compare favorably with the originals, proving that Harris was quite capable of taking a classic song associated with another artist and making it her own.
The up-tempo numbers, like Harris' hard-driving original, "Amarillo," and the rollicking "Feeling Single, Seeing Double," both display her band setting a high standard of musicianship. The spirit of Gram Parsons is often felt in this set, overtly on numbers he also recorded, like "Return of the Grievous Angel," "Ooh Las Vegas" and "Hickory Wind," but particularly on Harris' emotionally drenched original, "Boulder to Birmingham.
Also of note is during the final two encore numbers, Harris is joined by singers Fay Sue Starling and Nicolette Larson, who vocally enhance "Jambalaya" and the show closer, Shel Silverstein's poignant "Queen of the Silver Dollar," to end this memorable run.
From the very beginning, Harris set high standards for herself as well as the musicians she would work with. Her integrity, artistic ability and great diversity led the way to her transcending the country-rock genre and becoming so universally respected by fellow artists and music fans alike.