In 1995 Emmylou Harris cut "Wrecking Ball", the first of four ground breaking albums, that took her into new directions and defined a new musical genre, alternative country. Now, recording with producer (and ex husband) Brian Ahern for the first time in 25 years, Emmylou Harris looks back into the past on her own terms because her phrasing and the swirling sounds of those albums are much in evidence on this largely acoustic set.
Harris and Ahern have assembled a stellar cast of supporting musicians and singers for this production most of whom have recorded with her many times over her career. They include Kate and Anna McGarrigle, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Glen D Hardin, Bill Payne and Buddy Miller.
The songs follow the themes of sorrow for love lost, death, low self esteem, growing old and, finally, the promise of redemption in "Beyond The Great Divide". There are some real gems in this collection, including "Gold" with Vince Gill and the most traditional country on offer, Patti Smith's exquisite "Moon Song", Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five And Dimers Like Me" and her own "Sailing Around The Room" where, at the point of death, her spirit flies through the window to join with nature. Then, there is the Harris/McGarrigle song "How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower" about the love that A P Carter had for his wife Sara - simply beautiful and not a dry eye in the house!
The production and musicianship are impeccable but the most memorable thing about this album is Emmylou's voice. Time has been kind to her glorious pipes which have come to define her as an icon of Americana and able to convey depths of emotions that most other artistes find impossible. Just listen to the despair in Gold when she sings "But though I flew on wings of angels/My feet were always made of clay."
Thus, with the simplest of materials, she has been able to transform them into carefully woven tapestries of gold and produce an album which ranks among her best.