AmericanA to Z – Emmylou Harris

As a renowned singer, songwriter and musician, Emmylou Harris will no doubt need little or no introduction. Harris is, without doubt, one of the all-time greats. Her contribution to music over the years is summed up magnificently in the notes accompanying her 2005 compilation album ‘The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches and Highways’ as “a cornerstone of the country-rock genre, who led country music back to its roots, who was a trailblazer for female musical collaborations, who prefigured the resurgence of bluegrass, and who became a key artist of the Americana movement”.

My route to Americana music mirrors this description. Although I am no singer, songwriter or musician and my love and appreciation of music is eclectic, I was very much led to Americana via country-rock and have the likes of Emmylou to thank for that.

Her voice is sublime, her lyrics truly heartfelt and, very importantly, fully accessible. Her work is prolific, as have been her collaborations, her chart successes, her awards and her honours. However, some of the most notable aspects of her incredible career, for me, will always be her work with and about Gram Parsons, the Trio with Dolly Parton & Linda Ronstadt and her duetting with the mighty Mark Knopfler.

It was around 1973/74, as the duet partner of Gram Parsons that Emmylou was catapulted to fame.

The song: ‘Love Hurts
Although not the writers, or even the first performers of this much-covered song, their version, released around the time of Parsons’ untimely death, has to be the most spine-tinglingly beautiful of all. The beauty in the blend of their voices remaining unsurpassed, if I dare say so, in any genre.

Harris went on to refer to Parsons in some of her own songwriting, including a most poignant honouring in ‘The Road’ and a most enchanting requiem in ‘Boulder to Birmingham’.

Harris’ work with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt; ‘Trio‘, is another profoundly elegant body of works. It features a wealth of versatility and musical talent with the combination of the three female voices reaching gloriously deep. ‘You’ll Never Be The Sun’ (‘Trio II’) is just fabulous. Not least the acoustic guitars which give the song its pure beauty, surely one Harris could duet with Mark Knopfler sometime!

The 2007 Grammy-nominated, ‘All the Roadrunning’ album with Knopfler, brings a hugely exhilarating variation to both artists work. Harris has proven time and time again how she can bring her inimitable vocal charm to a wide range of styles adding sensational layers of artistry.

Career: Extensive!
It is impossible to summarise in just a few words, with the requisite level of impact, but I will give it a go…
‘Ground-breaking, pioneering, inspirational and, exquisite.

Key release: ‘Love Hurts’
By Harris’ admission, this started her career, opening the floodgates to her 20+ album releases, 27 top 10 hits and Grammy awarded performances reaching into double figures.

Personal favourites of mine include ‘Boulder to Birmingham’ and the wonderfully graceful, a cappella sound of ‘Calling My Children Home.’


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