It might seem a little strange of us to include the Maryhill Winery - nearly five hours away on the north bank of the Columbia River -- in our Fall Arts Preview. But even though the winery is just an hour or two upstream from Portland, Maryhill's arid, sunny locale has more in common with Eastern Washington than with anything in its nearer vicinity. As if that's not a good enough reason to consider them a far-flung arm of the Inland Northwest, consider the fact that Maryhill's owners are Craig and Vicki Leuthold, who used to own the Fort Spokane Brewery. Even their booking agent, Craig Heimbigner, is a Spokanite.
A quick perusal of this, their inaugural concert season, shows why a trip to Maryhill is well worth the drive. Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Los Lobos and Ricky Skaggs are just a few of the names who have played or soon will play the winery, but the brightest star by far to grace their summer 2003 musical constellation is Emmylou Harris (who appears Saturday, Oct. 4)
Emmylou Harris, with her distinctive, plaintive voice and proudly silver hair, is both icon and iconoclast. As a young folk musician, she was deeply influenced by her mentor Gram Parsons (who asked her to join his backing band, the Fallen Angels). After his death in 1973, Harris took her love of folk and roots music and parlayed them into gorgeous interpretations of everything from country to spirituals to rock. Her frequent collaborations with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Neil Young also helped pave the way for some of the best albums in her long career: Pieces of the Sky, Angel Band and Roses in the Snow.
Harris could have continued doing the same thing for the rest of her career and still enjoyed a goodly amount of success, but in 1995 she took an amazing risk in pairing up with legendary producer Daniel Lanois. The result of their collaboration, Wrecking Ball, was astonishing and unlike anything she'd ever done before, with lots of Lanois' U2-honed "rattle and hum" reverberating behind her sweetly haunting, lonely vocals. Far from being a short-lived experiment, this delicious interplay between dissonance and harmony has continued on every album she's done since, including Spyboy, Red Dirt Girl and her latest (due out this month) Stumble Into Grace. As on Red Dirt Girl, Harris wrote all the songs on this new album, which has a richer, more fleshed-out, world music sound. As we go to press, Stumble Into Grace has already reached an amazon.com sales rank of 97 and has been labeled an "essential" Emmylou Harris album.
Those of us who eagerly await everything Emmylou does know that she doesn't come through this neck of the woods very often. And what better place to see her than at one of the Northwest's premier new wineries, in an outdoor venue that combines the scenery of the Gorge with Met-like intimacy. One final note: The opening act for Emmylou Harris is Portland-based bluegrass quintet Sam Hill, which no doubt got its name from the winery's neighbor Maryhill Estate, built by -- you guessed it -- eccentric land baron Sam Hill.