Taking the early evening set, Patty Griffin, Shawn Colvin, Emmylou Harris and Buddy Miller (also known as Three Girls and their Buddy) swapped banter and songs for an hour and fifteen minutes.
Telling stories of Johnny and June, Buddy’s shoes and festivals past they each added harmonies and percussion to the others’ tunes.
“I’m Emmyou Harris, this is Patty Griffin over here and Shawn Colvin at the other end,” Emmylou said. “We are three girls and this is our Buddy, Buddy Miller. So this guitar is really really loud – sorry this is our combination show and soundcheck. We’re gonna start this out this is just a little guitar choral and a-round. I’m going to start this off because I’m the oldest. Probably in the course of this hour you’re going to hear some really sad songs. And so I thought I’d start with the sad song that got me started on sad songs.”
“Well, I’m sorry to inform you,” Buddy started. “I do sing a song when it comes around this way. But my songs are the shortest of the bunch although they will seem like the longest. This one’s a song my wife and child wrote.”
All My Tears
“Yeah, Bud,” Shawn said while tuning.
“Thank you, it’s good to be here!” Shawn said.
“It’s very nice to be here,” Patty said. “I don’t think I’ve been here since 1999. That’s been 10 years. I’m going to do this song that I wrote but didn’t record but some really talented ladies who call themselves the Dixie Chicks did. This is called really out of tune guitar song… Sure is pretty! Hope you’re wearing your sunscreen out there.”
“Who’s in charge of this great backdrop?” Emmylou asked.
“It’s pretty nice,” Patty agreed. “It doesn’t look real.”
“It looks like Hollywood rolled it in.”
Patty tested her guitar tuning again and exclaimed, “Oh! Good Lord!”
“You can blame the altitude with safety here.” Shawn suggested.
“Is that what it is?”
“Altitude blame is acceptable.”
“Yeah,” Emmylou added. “Blame the altitude for everything.”
“I love that song so much,” Emmylou said. “Well, Father’s Day is coming up so I’ll do a song that was written by two mothers, myself and Kimmie Rhodes, about our children, our grown children. I’m going to send this out to my two daughters that are here at Telluride this year. My oldest daughter and my youngest daughter who is here with my first grandbaby. But it really is a song about parents. So I’ll send this out to my little grandbaby, Prudence, and her dad, Josh.”
Love and Happiness
There was some discussion about being cold to which Emmylou said, “Hey, this is nothing! Oh, I remember when the…”
“You call this cold?” Patty laughed, “I’m from Maine!”
“I remember when the power went out and Sam Bush was playing. Snow and sleet and no lights! You guys remember that, don’t you? He played for three hours in the freezing cold.”
Buddy hit a few notes and said “That’s ok, can that count as my song? Actually, I’ve got a new record out with my wife and child, Julie Miller. It’s called Written in Chalk and I’m contractually obligated to say that every 15 minutes or every four songs. I know a couple songs from it so Patty’s gonna help me out and we’re going to do one… and professional drumming too.”
Emmylou said, “It’s better than a pizza box.”
Patty’s lyrics were blowing everywhere and Buddy asked if she needed some stones to hold them down. “The song doesn’t have that many lyrics.”
“I’ll figure it out,” Patty laughed.
“You can make them up as you go,” Buddy offered.
Gasoline and Matches
“Baby, baby, baby, baby, baby,” Shawn said.
“I’ve been more polished, sorry Buddy.” Patty apologized.
“Somebody tell a joke,” Shawn said as she tuned. “I’ve got an out of tune guitar. We were telling jokes backstage, but, it’s so predictable, we can’t repeat them.”
“It’s not dark enough yet,” Patty said. “We can’t repeat them in the daylight. If it was dark out, maybe.”
“I’m miraculously in tune,” Shawn said. “Nevermind, well, take that with a grain of salt.”
“Well, the last time I was here Johnny Cash was the headliner on the night that I played,” Patty said. “And some of you folks obviously saw that and I was just really barely staring out doing this full time and he really, I have to say when I saw him I thought, ‘That is a rock star, I get it.’ I mean he’s like this big, elegant man that’s got his guitar here and the thing that I remember about that night is that he got about three encores and he and June were doing the show and running on and off stage, huffing the oxygen. And finally on the third encore, June comes out with her purse over her arm, the way a nice southern lady would, indicating polietly that ‘This is all you get, folks. We’re ready to go.’
“Anyway, I should have prepared a Johnny Cash song, but I didn’t, I just thought about it. It would have been nice to do. But this is actually a song that was done by Merle Haggard and written by a guy that I just had the honor and pleasure of meeting, a great old Nashville songwriter, named Sonny Throckmorton.”
The Way I Am
“Now, since Patty started talking about Johnny and June,” Emmylou said. “I decided to do this song that I wrote about Johnny and June. I got the music when June was really ill in the hospital and wasn’t expected to survive. I guess it was kind of a shock, I know that everybody has to pass on and go to the other side but June was quite a force of nature. And she had been pulling John back from terrible illnesses for about ten years and somehow the idea that she was going to go first but if June had a mind to do something that was the way it was gonna be.”
“I love your shoes, Buddy,” Emmylou said.
“Buddy has good shoes on tonight,” Patty agreed. “Buddy, could you just maybe lift a foot up so they could see those shoes?”
“You know, it’s a sad thing,” Buddy said. “I mean, I’m a lucky guy. In many ways this is the most incredible stage. Great beautiful voices, beautiful women to travel with but with this many girls you start becoming one.”
“It’s not a bad thing,” Emmylou laughed.
“I start thinking about, ‘Oh, what shoes should I wear?'”
“That’s huge for Buddy.”
“I have one pair. But now, something’s changing. Anyway, this is my Johnny song but it’s Johnny and Jack, who I’m a big fan of. I’m sure you all are too. I don’t know it too well, but I’ll watch Shawn’s mouth for the words.”
“What, what? What’s it called?” Shawn said in mock horror.
“I can’t sustain that kind of pace, so it’d be my pleasure to bring it right on down,” Shawn said. “This is a song that I’ve started playing with the other two girls and Buddy and I love this song so I’m gonna do it.”
During the song, Shawn forgot the words and said, “Uh-oh,” making the other laugh.
“Well, I have some really exciting news,” Patty said. “I got to make a new record, and Buddy Miller produced it. We finished it up and it should be out sometime soon. It’s going to be called Downtown Church. We recorded it in a big church in downtown Nashville and it was just one of the best times in my life. I got asked to make a gospel record, I’m a lapsed Catholic, I don’t know how that happened but they asked me to do a gospel record and I got schooled by Buddy Miller about gospel music. But I did know this song, I’m a big fan of the Staple Singers and they did this song along with a lot of other people.”
If I Had My Way
“Ok, now Shawn’s got a new record coming out,” Emmylou said.
“It’s true, I have a live record,” Shawn said. “Thank you, Emmylou.”
“You girls have got to sell your product. Patty got schooled in gospel music by Buddy but Buddy got schooled in shoes. It’s a good trade off.”
“Very fair,” Shawn said.
“I’m going to do a song by Sinead O’Conner. This is a little boomy but by nature it’s boomy. But it does sound good, doesn’t it? It’s like a grand piano or something.”
This Is To Mother You
“I can actually tune one string,” Buddy said when someone onstage offered to tune for him. “If it’s the right string… It might not be the right string. I hope a bunch of you guys were fans of Stephen Bruton, it’s real sad that we lost a great guitar player and songwriter but really one of the nicest guy in the whole world. He lost his third bout with cancer a few weeks ago and I’m going to do one of his songs.”
“We almost lost Buddy a few months ago,” Emmylou said. “We’re really, really happy, pleased and thankful to have Buddy with us. Not just on stage but in the world, Buddy, we need you.”
“Yeah, I had a little mishap. A little heart attack after a gig. I made it through the gig, like a real pro. I think it was that meet and greet thing afterwards that did it to me. And I went in to get whatever it was fixed and they said, ‘You can’t go anywhere we have to do emergency open-heart surgery on you.’ I said, ‘That’s cool, the bus leaves at 8 in the morning.’ So I was on there, I was a little medicated. And Stephen Bruton was one of the first people to get in touch with me and give me encouragement.”
He started the song and said, “It’s the wrong key, that’s why I couldn’t tune.”
Heart of Hearts
“Well, this is the Telluride Bluegrass,” Shawn said. “I’m not the most bluegrass player, I guess that’s clear. But I’ve done a little bluegrass spin on a song that’s clearly not a bluegrass song but lyrically I think it’s up there with ‘Man of Constant Sorrow’ I think they’ve got something to share. You’ll probably recognize it, eventually.”
“We’ve got one more for you,” Emmylou said. “We’ve really enjoyed playing for you. Patty’s gonna take us out, this is a song we end with anyway it’s kind of like our benediction. It’s always an absolute joy to play Telluride.”