Posts Tagged ‘Emmylou Harris’

The tendency of musicians to reflect on previous artistic hits as they age is a natural response to the sense that there is less time ahead of them than behind. Perhaps why a similar sense of mortality that has spurred Neil Young to catalog his life on an exhaustively researched website has caught up with Emmylou Harris. It would explain why we get an expanded reissue of The Ballad of Sally Rose, one of her least commercially popular efforts, but now 33 years old and ripe for rediscovery.

Emmylou Harris’ 1985 song cycle, was partially inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s reflective album Nebraska, was the first album where she wrote or co-composed every tune, most in conjunction with boyfriend and soon-to-be husband singer/songwriter/producer Paul Kennerley. Perhaps not surprisingly, Kennerley helmed his own song cycle, The Legend of Jessie James, back in 1980 that featured Harris (as James’ wife) and other high profile country musicians. Sally Rose was already an alias Harris used but you don’t need to know that to realize the story is a thinly veiled, semi-autobiographical telling of her own short lived but highly influential relationship with Gram Parsons. Some of the specifics are changed — “Sally was born in the Black Hills of Dakota” goes the lyric to the title cut, and Harris was not but there are enough other references to cement the personal connection. She bares her soul in an album’s worth of originals that both tell the story (like in the J.J. Cale lope of “Rhythm Guitar”) and let the listener fill in the blanks, as on the glistening, string-enhanced ballad “Diamond in My Crown” where she sings “I shall not disavow/ all these ties that bind me now.”

The ballad-heavy set clocks in at just over 35 minutes yet is never rushed in telling its not-so-fictional tale of Sally Rose, a fledgling singer taken under an unnamed high profile act’s wing who becomes a star herself after his highway related death (“Bad News”). In the story she ends up buying a radio station (“K-S-O-S”) though, something Harris never did. The project was clearly a labour of love for Emmylou who invited friends Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Vince Gill along with her Hot Band members Hank DeVito and Albert Lee to assist. None of this has aged a day and tracks like “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” and the gorgeous gospel-infused “Sweet Chariot” remain as pertinent and touching as when they were written.

Closing track from the underappreciated album, The Ballad of Sally Rose, and her tribute to the great Gram Parsons.

Even though Sally Rose was an artistic success and nominated for a Grammy, it was a commercial disappointment, despite, or more likely because of, it’s unusually personal approach. It also didn’t spawn any hit singles. Rhino and Harris reassess this somewhat forgotten gem by remastering the original album and adding a second disc of previously unreleased, (mostly) unplugged demos, all rawer than the polished recording and worth hearing.

The combination of both the original 13 songs and 10 demos still barely breaks an hour which makes expanding this to two short discs with a list price of almost $25 (a double vinyl edition is even higher) seem a bit mercenary. Still, the exquisite Ballad of Sally Rose deserves the deluxe treatment and if this reissue sparks a revitalized, belated respect for this oughta-be-classic, 

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First Aid Kit performing their song “Emmylou” for Laureate Emmylou Harris at the Polar Music Prize banquet at Grand Hôtel in Stockholm. At the Polar Music Prize ceremony 9th June 2015 First Aid Kit also performed “Red Dirt Girl” to honor the Polar Music Prize Laureate Emmylou Harris.

life of emmylou

“The Life & Songs of Emmylou Harris” with a bunch of great artists line up ,Mavis Staples, Joan Baez, Kris Kristofferson, and many more will perform at the DAR Constitution Hall.
Legendary singer-songwriter Emmylou Harris will be saluted by her contemporaries and also those she inspired at a massive event in Washington, D.C. the evening billed as “The Life & Songs Of Of Emmylou Harris: is An All-Star Event Concert Celebration” will take place January 10th at DAR Constitution Hall.

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The lengthy title of the concert is headed by the impressive list of musicians set to perform. In addition to Harris herself, the bill lists Kris Kristofferson, Sheryl Crow, Lucinda Williams, Shovels & Rope and many, many more.

In addition to the star-studded lineup, the event will be directed by Grammy winners Don Was and Buddy Miller, and will be produced by Keith Wortman and Ken Levitan. Was and Wortman have teamed up before to create similar concerts honoring Johnny Cash, Levon Helm and Gregg Allman. Over the course of her career, Harris has collaborated and recorded with artists ranging from Gram Parsons to Conor Oberst. In the process, she’s been awarded 13 Grammys, most recently for 2013′s Old Yellow Moon with Rodney Crowell.