I consider Red Dirt Girl a touch above her masterpiece Wrecking Ball. I always skip some tracks on that one, but this immaculate album is so consistently beautiful that one can safely ignore the one less than classic song (J'ai fait tout). Her music is infused with a deep spirituality finding expression in trenchant poetic lyrics, inspiring melodies and expert instrumentation.
The combination of vivid imagery and sweeping melody on Michelangelo is absolutely breathtaking, and is followed by the powerful moody rock of I Don't Wanna Talk About It Now. The next one, Tragedy, is a traditional country weepie but of course of the highest quality in both lyrics and execution, while the title track is country storytelling at its best.
The mournful My Baby Needs A Shepherd is followed by the equally sorrowful elegy to her father, Bang The Drum Slowly. The mood lifts with One Big Love that echoes the sensual ballads like Blackhawk and Waltz Across Texas on her Wrecking Ball album. Hour of Gold contains some of her most moving romantic lyrics.
My Antonia, the beautiful duet with Dave Matthews, reminds me a bit of another song that Emmylou covered long ago, Spanish Is The Loving Tongue (Mi Amor, Mi Corazon), whilst the sad but transcendent The Pearl reminds me of The Garden Hides The Jewel by Angels Of Light.
Red Dirt Girl is an absolutely outstanding achievement and, together with Nick Lowe's The Impossible Bird and her own Wrecking Ball, make up my three best-loved albums of the last ten years in the country tradition.