Three (and their Buddy)’s Company

It’s easy to get lost in the details when thinking about the Three Girls and Their Buddy tour, no matter how you look at it. With the combined talents of Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller—all headlining performers in their own right, joined together for a powerhouse of a 12-date tour—it’s hard not to get a little distracted. The foursome have collectively won some 15 Grammys (not to mention dozens of other awards) and collaborated with some of the most legendary performers in recording history.

Steady on: Shawn Colvin may not be as familiar of a name as her tour-mates, but she’s hardly an unknown. In fact, the twotime Grammy winner has an enviable supply of pop-culture cred. Her song “Nothin’ on Me” was the theme song for the Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan, and she had a reoccuring role as Ned Flanders’ love interest on The Simpsons.

But, as exciting as their combined histories are, no one will be attending their performance at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium because their pasts. It’s the music that brings in the fans.

Emmylou Harris is no stranger to sharing the limelight. With a career that spans nearly four decades, Harris has used her remarkable and captivating voice to win over audiences and other musicians alike. She’s collaborated with an astonishing collection of performers—Gram Parsons, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, Bob Dylan and Beck, just to name a few. Although her country roots run deep, Harris has branched out considerably in the last two decades, edging ever closer to alt-country and indie-rock turf.

Singer, songwriter, collaborator, activist: From a humble start as a UNC-Greensboro grad playing folk songs in the Greenwich Village coffeehouse scene to organizing starstudded benefits like Concerts for a Landmine Free World, Emmylou Harris has worn many hats in her nearly fourdecade- long career. Photo by brigitte lacombe

While it seems like Harris would be the de facto star of the show, she’s really just one point in the constellation.

Few singers possess a voice capable of reaching the same ethereal heights as Harris’, but Patty Griffin is among that rare breed. She’s a powerful performer, a singer/songwriter who is forever balancing a range of influences that include folk, country and gospel, and blurring the lines between each.

And then there’s Shawn Colvin. Although less known in pop-culture circles than Harris and Griffin, she’s an accomplished performer and two-time Grammy winner. (She was infamously interupted by the Wu-Tang Clan’s Ol’ Dirty Bastard during her Song of the Year acceptance speech for the single “Sunny Came Home.” It was an unfortunate event, particularly when one considers that the song provides one of the most irresistible melodies that has ever been featured in a song about a woman burning her home down.) Like Harris, Colvin is also a sought-after collaborator and backing vocalist, and has contributed to a number of very successful recordings. (She sang backup on the Suzanne Vega hit, “Luka,” for instance.)

Idol-maker: Although a well-known performer in her own right, Patty Griffin also made a name for herself penning songs that other artists have made into hits. Her song “Up to the Mountain” became a Billboard Hot 100 hit after Kelly Clarkson and Jeff Beck covered it on American Idol.

Rounding out the show is “their buddy,” noted songwriter, guitarist, producer and performer Buddy Miller. Don’t feel too bad if you’ve never heard of Miller: Although he’s a prolific artist in his own right, releasing 11 albums either solo or with his wife, Julie Miller, he’s mostly known as a producer and backing musician. In fact, Miller as spent most of his career as the guiding hand behind the work of others. (Colvin and Harris—not to mention dozens of others—have benefitted from his work.)

With such a strong lineup, it’s a challenge to predict exactly what kind of show will result from the Three Girls and Their Buddy tour. But, at a minimum, expect wonderful songs, heartfelt messages and wealth of memorable performances all around.

[Jason Bugg is a freelance writer based in Asheville.]

who: Emmylou Harris, Shawn Colvin, Patty Griffin and Buddy Miller
what: A showcase of folk, country, Americana by highly talented performers
where: Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
when: Tuesday, Jan. 15 (8 p.m. $66.50 to $35. or 259-5544)

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