With a remarkable 74 years of recording history between them Emmylou Harris and her former Hot Band member Rodney Crowell have reunited to record this album of country duets.
Produced by Harris' former husband, Brian Ahern, who also produced many of her earlier records, she and Crowell are also joined by other Hot Band members such as James Burton, Glen D Hardin, John Ware, Bill Payne and Emory Gordy.
After the acclaimed "Wrecking Ball" Emmylou's work continued with an adventurous alternative country style that culminated with "All I Intended To Be". Now she has returned to her Gram Parsons inspired roots with this collection of neo traditional material. While Crowell has always followed his own brand of progressive country he has remained a traditionalist at heart and so this album finds them both tied by an affection for things past.
Emmylou's finest moment comes with her passionate reading of Patti Scialfa's song of obsession, "Spanish Dancer". With mandolin, gut string guitar and Crowell's gentle harmony this is an inspired performance of a beautiful song to rank with her best.
The album begins with Hank DeVito's "Hanging Up My Heart", packed with Hammond B3, accordion and steel guitar with Harris and Crowell reviving that Hot Band sound. The black humour of Roger Miller's "Invitation To The Blues" is a smart piece of traditional country driven by steel guitar and fiddle.
The first part of Matraca Berg's beautiful "Back When We Were Beautiful" is sung by Emmylou to a simple piano accompaniment as she recalls the past with a perfect evocation of nostalgia and the sadness of growing old. But when Crowell joins her with the words
"But I still love to dance, you know we used to dance the night away Back when we were beautiful",
the effect is absolutely stunning, a timeless duet with melody and lyrics framed by shades of perfection.
There is a a perfectly realised version of Allen Reynold's delightful classic "Dreamin' My Dreams" and "Black Caffeine", another DeVito number, is propelled by more of that Hammond B3. Other highlights include Crowell's "Here We Are" underpinned by steel guitar and piano and another Hank DeVito song, the reflective and poignant "Old Yellow Moon" which closes the album.
This is an album that finds Emmylou's voice at its crystalline best with Rodney Crowell equal to the task of duetting with a legend. With Brian Ahern back at the helm and a few former Hot Band members included in the mix this is country music where past and present come together to show that there will always be a future for this most enduring of musical genres.
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