By SCOTT WEISSER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
GOSHEN — Steve Martin declined to make an understatement Saturday night.
“I’ve lived here since 1972, and to me this is the best artist to ever come to Goshen, Indiana,” Martin said. “I think that highly of her.”
“Her” is Emmylou Harris. And Martin, owner of Ignition Music in downtown Goshen, was an hour and some change away from seeing Harris perform at Goshen College.
The concert had been sold out for months, and those lucky enough to be there greeted Harris warmly as she walked onstage in Sauder Concert Hall. Strapping on an acoustic guitar, the 12-time Grammy award winner started the show solo with “My Songbird.” Her bandmates filed onstage and joined in as the song continued.
Next up was the comparatively more raucous “Six White Cadillacs,” followed with “Two More Bottles of Wine,” the latter a Delbert McClinton tune Harris topped the country charts with in 1978.
Martin said he’s been listening to Harris since the early ’70s. At that time she was recording with Gram Parsons, the late country-rock and Americana touchstone. Martin recalled the beautiful harmony of the duo on Parsons’ “Grievous Angel” album.
“I purchased everything the lady ever recorded,” he added. “... She continues to grow and change in her style. She is such a joy.”
Throughout her career, Harris has largely been an interpreter of others’ songs. However, Martin pointed out that Harris is growing as a writer in her own right. He also appreciates Harris’ “generosity of spirit,” saying her unmistakable voice can be heard on dozens of records by other artists, both well-known and up-and-comers.
Two of Harris’ band members, Will Kimbrough and Phil Madeira, stopped by Ignition Music Saturday prior to the show.
“They were in the store for almost an hour,” Martin said. According to a posting on the Ignition Music Facebook page, they also bought vinyl.
Martin wasn’t the only Harris enthusiast in Goshen Saturday night.
Elva Miller, heading in to find his Sauder seat, said he’d been looking forward to the concert. He said he first heard Harris perform in the late ’70s.
“She was singing with Ricky Skaggs, or rather Ricky was singing with her,” Miller said. “... She’s just got a totally clear voice.”
Amanda Schmidt of Goshen was seeing the show a day after her birthday.
“I like her voice, and I like the harmonies and the multitude of instruments that are usually involved,” she aid.
“I’m a big fan and have been a fan for a long time,” Jane Miller of Goshen said in the lobby outside the concert hall. She, too, is sold on Harris’ voice, but added, “It’s also (Harris’) willingness to do a lot of different things, with lots of different artists, and I think that’s partly what makes her great.”
GC Music Center director Marcia Yost made introductory remarks before Harris appeared onstage.
“In 2008, Emmylou Harris was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame,” she said. Applause followed.
“Exactly,” Yost said.
Soon after, the Hall of Famer herself was singing of hard times and heartache.
“My baby moved out and left me behind/But it’s all right ‘cause it’s midnight/And I got two more bottles of wine,” Harris sang.
Actual wine was hard to come by in Sauder Concert Hall Saturday. Artistry that’s been earning Emmylou Harris accolades for decades? Plenty on tap.