A compilation like this one is particularly useful when it comes to artists whose catalogs are colossal in depth. You see, “Heartaches & Highways” (2005) is an anthology which was assembled by Emmylou herself. It is interesting to listen to the story the way she wants to tell it. If you are an old fan, you get to see which songs she deems as the ones that shaped her career. And if you are a newcomer, you have the chance of sampling the songs she might like to be remembered by, effectively getting acquainted with her music like that.
Although not strictly a “best of” album, the CD definitely leans on hits, as her first song to hit the charts with force (“If I Could Only Win Your Love”) is included amid a series of tunes that she has either turned into standards or rejuvenated completely, such as “Two More Bottles Of Wine”, “Lost His Love In Our Last Date” and the sweet “To Know Him Is To Love Him” from the celebrated “Trio” album:
A nice choice (and one that clearly strays from a “very best” motif) is “Pancho & Lefty”. Emmylou’s version precedes the successful take by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard. While the ones who struck gold where the two outlaws, Emmylou at least pointed the way to the treasure in a very elegant way indeed.
An absolute highlight is her duet with Roy Orbison on “That Lovin’ You Feelin’”. The mix is crisper than the one I had listened to on her “Duets” album, too. The difference is not pronounced, but the guitars have more space and the song on the whole sounds even more refined.
It goes without saying that both “Love Hurts” and “Boulder To Birmingham” are included. These are the songs that open the disc, actually, and they do mark her birth as an artist. She probably feels that part of Gram lives inside her. Every person who ever lost an artistic collaborator or a mentor feels like that. Did Gram instill the love/obsession for sad songs into her? Emmylou thinks as much. I think he instilled a true love for music into her. Events were to dictate that such a love would manifest itself in sad compositions.
Fast forward to the year 2000. The album “Red Dirt Girl” was released. It established Emmylou as a true composer, and reaffirmed her as an overall artist that owed nothing to no-one, and to whom many owed far too much to be repaid. The one selection from that album found here is “Michelangelo”. “It was forgotten long ago” Emmylou writes and sings. What? That love hurts? I don’t know. That she has two more bottles of wine to pass the night? I can’t tell. That she lost love in a last date? We can’t be certain.
That to know others is to love them? No. That is definitely never forgotten. It is what her music will always convey. And this single disc carries that message right into every listener. No wonder the tracks were handpicked by her.
Would I recommend purchase of this compilation: Yes
Do I feel like digging deeper into her catalog after listening to it: Yes