IT'S HARD to pinpoint the best part about last night's Cystic Fibrosis benefit concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
The four-hour marathon, hosted by local favorites The Hard Travelers, brought together a special group of talented musicians.
The performers showed genuine concern for the cause -- a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. And the stellar country and folk music that came at a machine-gun pace sure didn't hurt, either.
Seven acts performed throughout the evening, with short breaks and long sets.
Emmylou Harris was the headliner, and event organizers readily admitted that it was her billing that allowed the troupe to secure Merriweather and sell almost 3,000 tickets, raising more than $85,000. The show has been held at Downs Park in Anne Arundel Country the past two years.
But by the time Emmylou took the stage, she had a tough bunch of acts to follow.
Harris had to compete with The Hard Travelers, who had invited 7-year-old Matthew Klipsch on stage for a wonderful performance of "Rock Me Grandpa."
She also was up against the reunion of Fat City, the former husband-wife team of Bill and Taffy Danoff, who brought their children on stage to sing "Take Me Home, Country Roads," which they wrote for John Denver nearly 20 years ago.
There was also a brilliant 40-minute set from Maine's Schooner Fare, which mixed plenty of comedy into their stylish folk rhythms.
Not that there was anything wrong with Emmylou's 45-minute set -- her voice and band were in fine form -- but this night had talent everywhere.
Harris said she wound up on the bill after Rep. Steny Hoyer contacted a record company executive and asked if she was available.
"I know how good the cause is," Harris said backstage before the show. "I have a very good friend in Ireland, a promoter, who has an adopted daughter with the disease. My daughter is the same age and it really makes you think about how lucky we are."
Harris jumped on the bill several months ago despite having a show in Atlanta Tuesday night and another in Nashville tonight.
"I think the people who book these tours must throw darts at a map of the United States and route the tour that way," she said during the show.
Harris, whose family lives near Bethesda, performed a mixed assortment of numbers, with 1970s hits like "Two More Bottles Of Wine" and others from the '80s such as "Warfaring Stranger."