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A BOUQUET OF ROSES FOR EMMYLOU,
This review is from: Roses In The Snow (Audio CD)Brave Emmylou made this album at a time when bluegrass was not fashionable at all. Roses in the Snow has remained a firm favorite down the years; her interpretations are just so sublime, the song selection is spot-on, the playing superb and the arrangements exquisite. Several country legends lend their talents to add magic to the sound. The album has now been enhanced by the addition of two previously unreleased tracks that do not reflect the bluegrass style of the other tracks but resemble her traditional country work of the 1970s from albums like Luxury Liner.
It kicks off with the up-tempo title track, an elegy with rich allusive imagery which is followed by the urgent Green Pastures, a stirring devotional duet with Ricky Skaggs. The traditional Wayfaring Stranger comes across with great power in her mid-tempo treatment and yearning vocals. The folk/pop Paul Simon composition The Boxer gets a graceful treatment, light and lilting, while hope triumphs over despair in the slow & melancholy The Darkest Hour is just before Dawn with its beautiful male vocals.
The picking on the fast-paced I'll Go Stepping Too is breathtaking as is the overall instrumental virtuosity. It contrasts markedly with the slow, aching ballad You're Learning, a moving description of love gone wrong. Next come the joyful gospel song Jordan where male vocals make a prominent contribution, followed by the gentle ballad Miss the Mississippi. The original album concluded with the sublime Gold Watch & Chain, another up-tempo duet.
Besides this bluegrass treasure, Emmylou's non-traditional country albums include 1987's Angel Band, a devotional album that is more folk than country, 1999's Western Wall which is folk-rock and the trilogy of Wrecking Ball, Red Dirt Girl and Stumble into Grace where she explored a haunting style of atmospheric rock music. They are all works of consummate artistry but Roses in the Snow has a visceral emotional appeal.
Every single song is a gem so it's not easy to pick favorites, but the title track, Green Pastures, Darkest Hour, The Boxer, Miss the Mississippi and Gold Watch & Chain are particularly outstanding. I also recommend Dolly Parton's bluegrass excursion Grass Is Blue although it does not leave quite as strong an impression as this masterpiece. I've discovered much beautiful new music since bluegrass made a comeback in the 1990s but I always return to Roses in the Snow as one collection embodying the absolute best of the genre.