My Record Collection 127

Emmy-Lou Harris – She first came across my horizon in the mid-seventies on a concept album ‘The Legend of Jesse James’, where she sang a couple of songs.  A gorgeous sumptuous Americana voice.  She also recorded much of an album of songs by Gram Parsons (see P) who she was heavily involved with in the seventies.  But the earliest real album of hers I have is from 1980 Roses in The Snow, which I bought in a charity shop.  Well, it is a real country album – which is where Emmylou started – though she has moved more into Americana of late.  Not such a bad album for all that, though spoiled by a couple of real Christian songs; best songs are ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ and Paul Simon’s ‘The Boxer’.  But I really got into her with her 1995 release ‘Wrecking Ball’.   Emmylou was 48, and though not washed up, past her prime.  But her choice of producer, Daniel Lanois (see L) and songs by Dylan, Neil Young, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and a couple by Lanois too; and she suddenly became the queen of Americana.  She had always had the voice, but had veered into traditional country music.  This album brought her to a whole new audience just as the American train was leaving the station.  Hard to pick a best song – they are all superb, but I really love ‘Every grain of Sand’ and ‘Goodbye’ – she manages to bring something to these songs that makes they fresh again.  A brilliant album and suddenly she was relevant again.   Her next album was Red Dirt Girl (2000), a departure as 11 of the 12 songs were written, at least in part, by Emmylou; previously she was an interpreter of other songwriters.  A very accomplished effort, if slightly overlong.  The production carried on from Wrecking Ball’s sound and very pleasant it is – best songs; ‘Michaelangelo’ ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It Now’ and ‘Bang The Drum Slowly’ – but there isn’t a weak song on the record – her voice soars above the melody and is instantly recognisable; one of the things I look for in singers.   The next record I bought was 2008’s All I Intended To Be.  Who knows why we buy everything from one artist and just certain ones from others – but I was never besotted by Emmylou.  And I was looking for another Wrecking Ball, which while very good, this album wasn’t. Emmylou had only written a handful of songs, but she had chosen some classics, best of which were ‘Kern River’, written by Merle Haggard, ‘Old Five and Dimers’ by Billie Joe Shaver.  Another good track is her collaboration with Kate and Anna McGarrigle ‘How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower’.  A pleasant record, but one that didn’t quite hit the hot spot with me.  My next of hers is Western Wall (1999) a collaboration with Linda Ronstadt.  This for me is almost her best album, the combination of the two voices works remarkably well.  Again, mostly covers and great choices too; ‘Sisters of Mercy’ by Leonard Cohen, ‘Across the Border’ by Springsteen, but best song is ‘Loving The Highway Man’.  Somehow the combination of voices adds that little bit of depth.  I also have a 1990 album Duets, which I bought on the strength of Neil Young and Roy Orbison among others who she sung with, but, in reality, she was often doing backing vocals on these tracks, although it is quite pleasant nevertheless

Emmylou Harris | Music fanart |