I’m a latecomer to the artistry of singer Emmylou Harris, but as a fan I make up in intensity what what I lack in longevity. I have accordingly followed with interest the series of reviews Professor Norman Geras has run on the estimable Normblog regarding Emmylou.
Norm’s latest installment in the series is “The Emmylou Review #8.” Norm includes a concise introduction to Emmylou by Chris Shannon and picks up his own review of Emmylou’s career with her 1992 bluegrass disk Live at the Ryman.
I came to Emmylou indirectly through my love for the music of the 1960’s group the Byrds. The Byrds brought brilliant Beatles-inspired vocal harmonies and jangly 12-string electric guitar to the music of Bob Dylan and their own superb compositions. In one version of the group, country rock flameout Gram Parsons briefly took center stage and hijacked their 1968 album, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” Following that album Parsons and original Byrd Chris Hillman left the Byrds to found the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Around the time Hillman and Parsons both departed the Flying Burrito Brothers to pursue other interests, Hillman found Emmylou performing in a Washington, D.C. area folk club and brought Parsons to see her. Parsons promptly recruited her to sing harmonies on his post-Burrito solo albums and died of a drug overdose at age 27 following the second of his two solo ablums.
Emmylou must have fallen hard for him; she seems to pay tribute to him in one way or another in every one of her shows and on most of her albums, starting with the devastating “Boulder to Birmingham” on her debut album. Parsons dedicated himself to the union of country and rock that he dubbed Cosmic American Music. Emmylou seems to me to have tapped a deep vein of that music.
DEACON adds: While you’re on his blog, don’t miss Norm’s excellent commentary on D-Day and the meaning of 9/11.
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