Reviewed by Adam Sweeting
After 25 years as a solo artist, only now is Emmylou Harris really blazing a trail through her musical heritage. Harris's musical apprenticeship with the late Gram Parsons gave her a sense of the music's infinite possibilities, but it also left her in Parsons's shadow. For this live album, though, she has assembled a superb three-piece band who can play anything from bluegrass to ambient spook-rock, and it accompanies her on a powerfully emotive journey across the arc of her career. Emmylou's voice is tougher and hoarser with age, and far more compelling as a result.
Reviewed by Andy Gill
Named after the all-singing, all-dancing point man of a New Orleans Mardi Gras tribe, whose appearance prefigures the imminent arrival of the tribal procession at the city's annual carnival, Spyboy finds silver-haired country queen Emmylou Harris capitalising on the success of 1995's career-reviving Wrecking Ball, which won her the following year's Contemporary Folk Grammy.
A live album drawing on all stages of her career, from "Love Hurts"--one of the duets with the late Gram Parsons which prefaced her first solo outing--through to a luminous new version of Daniel Lanois' "The Maker", it showcases both Emmylou's strengths (as singer and as judge of material) and the quicksilver style of her band, now also called Spyboy. The work of guitarist Buddy Miller, in particular, is quite dazzling, showering flurries of fast-picked notes across the album with a nerveless nonchalance.
The songs come from reliable sources--Lanois, Parsons, Jesse Winchester, Rodney Crowell, etc--though Harris's own "Boulder To Birmingham", originally from her 1975 debut Pieces Of The Sky, remains the equal of anything here.