Top positive review
32 people found this helpful
Harris as she's meant to be
on 16 January 2003
Harris has always had a brilliant voice and surrounded herself with the songs and instrumentalists to make it sound even better. Her choice of songs is very canny and displays impeccable taste - never falling into the trap of cliche and sentimentality. Her previous albums - with the exception of 'The Ballad of Sally Rose' 'Wrecking Ball' is really the cut off point here - have tended to sound clinical however. The listener feels that she's holding back somehow, refusing to get emotionally involved with the music. 'Red Dirt Girl,' a self-penned album that seems to be the destination of where she was starting to go on 'Wrecking Ball,' finally acomplishes that.
It's interesting that both 'Wrecking Ball,' and 'Red Dirt Girl' won Grammys but for best contemporary folk album rather than best country. There's certainly a country edge visible in 'Red Dirt Girl,' mostly in the lyrical, ballad-like quality of some of the songs and the cultural references used, for example in 'The Boy From Tupelo' and 'Red Dirt Girl.' I wouldn't call this a country or a folk album however. It transcends boundaries. The production (although I don't know much about such matters) is a warm cocophony of instrumentation and vocal backing which, in combination with Harris' voice, seems to wrap the listener in an embryonic cloud of warmth, nostalgia and sorrow.
The noicable change in Harris' voice in 'Wrecking Ball,' and 'Spyboy' is that it had lost it's clear cut perfection and become raw with emotion. The voice sounds as if it's loved, lost and keeps going and the songs say the same. Personal thoughts such as the deep spiritual yearning of 'The Pearl,' the sorrow and guilt at the death of her father in 'Band the Drum Slowly,' and the regret at her actions in a mother in 'My Baby Needs a Shepherd,' are offset by more general considerations such as the end of an era in 'The Boy from Tupelo,' and the experimental greatness of 'Michaelangelo.' Ironically enough the most cheerful note comes from the only cover on the album - 'One Big Love,' by Patty Griffin. I have to admit I found myself preferring the reserved wistfulness and joy of Harris to Griffin's original!
Without a doubt this is the best album I own. I listened to it solidly for about three months after I bought it - I just couldn't get it out of my head! It's wistful, it's sorrowful, it's lyrical, it's beautiful and it's real. The songs seem like something that you've always heard, they become part of your world. If you've ever listened to Harris and wondered what would happen if she just let rip this is the album for you.