What a delightful surprise the arrival of this album is! Back in 1990, Emmylou Harris assembled a dynamite all-star acoustic band, dubbed the Nash Ramblers, featuring her on acoustic guitar, along with guitarist/mandolinist Jon Randall Stewart, Al Perkins on dobro and banjo, Sam Bush on fiddle and mando, Roy Huskey Jr. on bass, and Larry Atamanuik on drums. The ecstatically received group tore it up on the road for a couple of years and left behind an excellent Grammy-winning live album, At the Ryman, that showed the group’s amazing range. Ramble in Music City features a recently unearthed concert recorded seven months before At the Ryman, but featuring a completely different set list (23 songs!), all played with the same passion and precision as the illustrious Ryman.
There are more repertoire carryovers from Harris’ earlier (mostly electric) band configurations than on the Ryman set, including such favorites as “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” “Two More Bottles of Wine,” “Hello Stranger,” “One of These Days,” “The Boxer, “Sweet Dreams,” “Blue Kentucky Girl,” and “Boulder to Birmingham”; a splendid mix of traditional songs, old and new country, and a pop tune or two. All benefit from these solid and always tasteful acoustic interpretations. Harris’ own acoustic playing has always been somewhat underrated in my view, but with the Nash Ramblers her guitar work falls so neatly amidst Stewart’s fluid playing and Perkins’ dobro that it takes on a more audible role in the overall soundscape. The harmonies are spot-on throughout, too.
This article originally appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.