Emmylou Harris chosen to join Country Music Hall of Fame
Tom T. Hall said that induction is almost a spiritual experience. Has it been for you as well?
It will now. It's still got to sink in a little bit. There's that aspect of it, where you feel honored. What an amazing thing it is to be a part of that tradition, especially for somebody who didn't come to it naturally. I wasn't raised in Country Music, even though I'm from the South. We moved around a lot, and music wasn't a big part of my life until I discovered folk music. That's where my musical passion was until I started working with Gram [Parsons], and then I became this almost obnoxious convert.
Everything about Country Music, there is a certain reverence, so I would use that word as well as what he said, "spiritual." There's a reverence about the music because to me it's not just music that was played a long time ago. The good stuff is always resonant. For me, it always fuels my passion for Country Music moving forward, obviously not trying to just recreate what the early artists did. But you're infused with it, and you go on to hopefully add something to it.
How do you feel about being part of this Class of '08, with all that it reflects about Country Music?
Oh, well, it's great. Of course, I never met Pop Stoneman, but he's a part of that education for me. Also, the D.C. area, there's that connection, even though we were there at different times.
I was telling the Statlers that in that arrogant period of my youth, when I disdained Country Music, my brother was a huge Country Music fan way before it was cool in certain circles. I loved the Statler Brothers in spite of myself. You can't but smile when you hear "counting flowers on the wall."
And, of course, Tom T. Yes, you had the songwriting of Bob Dylan, which infused me and still does. But Tom T., cutting to the chase with simplicity of lyrics and storytelling that goes back to folk and the best of Country. So, I'm a huge fan of Tom T. Hall. When the original Hot Band was out, our motto was: "Faster Horses!" Rodney and I used to warm up with "Negatory Romance." And now, of course, Buddy Miller has recorded "That's How I Got to Memphis" with Solomon Burke. It's great to be a part of this class.
Rodney Crowell, George Jones, Mark Knopfler, Patty Griffin, Linda Ronstadt, and John Starling are duet partners who show up with Harris here. It’s a fitting range of voices and connections for the adventurous singer, who is known to love to sing harmonies and to look for newer writers and singers, which both Crowell and Griffin were when first she knew them. Her harmony work doesn’t show up much here, by Harris’ choice: she felt it was important to include material on the project where her voice was the leading one. Makes these collaborations all the more interesting, both in themselves and in the reminders of other collaborative projects in which she’s participated.
Six of the seventeen cuts on this disc see their first release here, and there’s a live version of The Pearl, as well. Highway of Heartache and Snowin’ on the Raton, and First in Line, the duet with Starling, are three of the unreleased tracks.
Harris takes a bluegrass/country turn with Randy Scruggs and Iris DeMent on Wildwood Flower, and her song with George Jones, Here We Are, marked the first time she’d recorded with a singer who’d been a longtime inspiration for her own work. The last song of this seventy eight track trip finds Harris again with her friends Ronstadt and Parton, singing When We’re Gone, Long, Gone.
The ten cuts on the dvd span Harris’performing career from Together Again with the Hot Band through Love Hurts with Elvis Costello. I Ain’t Living Long Like This, with Spyboy, is especially notable. It’d have been nice to see some of Harris’ Austin City Limits performances, or her gigs at Merlefest; with nine cuts to span forty years, what is there are varied choices. The tenth video is Harris making a plea for a cause she believes in strongly, animal rescue.
She believes strongly in music, too. “The possibility of one song gets me out of bed in the morning,” she says.
All things considered, it’s as interesting see what Harris chose to include in this package as it is to hear the music.
more about Songbird There's a series of posts about the music on Songbird. Follow the links at the bottom of each post to see the others, as well as related material.