Emmylou Harris was born in 1947 in Birmingham, Alabama. She was discovered by Gram Parsons and assumed vocal duties with the man who we now deem as one of the fathers of country rock, cutting the timeless duet “Love Hurts”. She was to eventually establish herself as one of the most distinguished female performers within country music along with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton, and as a true point of reference within music as a whole.
Some of her best-remembered songs include her elegy to Parsons (“Boulder To Birmingham”), the swinging “Two More Bottles Of Wine” (a number 1 hit), “Beneath Still Waters” and the songs she recorded with Linda and Dolly in the “Trio” album (1987).
Emmylou is characterized by her inventiveness and willingness to experiment. This desire to break down barriers is all the more evident on some recent day albums such as “Wrecking Ball” and “Spyboy”. Her versatility as a performer is evidenced by the number of collaborations Emmylou has cut. She must be the most active female country musician in that respect, with Willie Nelson occupying the same spot as far as male country performers are concerned.
Besides being a skilled performer of other people’s songs, Harris has also proven to be a realized composer. “Boulder To Birmingham” is arguably her most cherished composition, and beginning with “The Ballad Of Sally Rose” (1985) she has taken an even more active role when it comes to the material she performs. But (as it is the case with Linda Ronstadt) Emmylou has such an ability to render other people’s tunes that she makes them her very own almost effortlessly, and raise the emotional stakes even higher than the original performer.
The first country album I ever bought, incidentally, was one of Emmylou’s: the “Duets” CD. I am reviewing that soon along with her other pivotal works, including the legendary “Live At The Ryman” set with the Nash Ramblers.