now playing: Emmylou Harris: Songbird: back to disc one
For Emmylou Harris, the roots of music run deep into folk tradition, and the branches stretch out to country, Americana, bluegrass, and a range of singer and songwriter ideas and other genres. It’s the folk and country sides which are the focus of the twenty one tracks on the first disc of this box set. It’s Harris’ own view of these sounds, of course, and her choice of highlights from the many such songs she has recorded.
Among other things that means there’s as much from songwriters like Rodney Crowell, Gram Parsons, and Dolly Parton as there is material from any historic source. The disc opens with an alternate take from her first album Gliding Bird, showing Harris in the early days of developing her vocal style, and her song writing chops too. A studio track and a live cut with Gram Parsons give a good look at their collaboration in just the space of two songs. Sorrow in the Wind evokes the Appalachians as well as western spaces, while Rough and Rocky walks a line between lullaby and lament.
The box set’s title track, My Songbird, is here, and so is Ashes By Now, which its writer, Rodney Crowell, and country star Lee Ann Womack have both taken to well deserved chart status. Harris puts yet another spin on the song. There’s a Springsteen song, Racing in the Streets, in which Harris keeps both the folk and rock sides of the Boss in evidence. The Green Rolling Hills is, Harris remarks in the liner notes, “a direct line back to displacement, people leaving, longing for home...we all feel that way in different situations. That sense of longing has always been the thing that pulls me into songs.”
photograph by Kerry Dexter
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