Wednesday, July 13, 2016

12 Albums: Pieces of the Sky

Most formative records. I've got Glen Campbell, Elton John and John Prine on the list so far. The artist I want to feature next is the great EmmyLou Harris. Actually, I could name several of her records and they would all have the same standing for me, because I listened to them all frequently in about equal measure through the years. These records were her debut, Pieces of the Sky, and from the early 80s, Cimarron and then Evangeline.

I loved everything about EmmyLou, but mostly her articulate and sensitive delivery of really good songs. Not a prolific songwriter herself, she is one of those artists, like Bonnie Raitt, with a careful and canny knack for selecting great songs and then creating a sound to match. I think I also discovered a lot of songwriters through these albums. People like Townes van Zandt and Rodney Crowell--I first heard their songs on EmmyLou's records.

EmmyLou created a sound that was kind of plaintive honky tonk, based on the waltz tempo, like something the band might play after closing, when everyone is tired and ready to go home. One last slow waltz and blow out the lights. "Spanish is a Loving Tongue," "Last Cheater's Waltz," and "If I Could Only Win Your Love" come to mind.

But the song I want to feature I think is "Boulder to Birmingham," a song that was written by Harris about the death of Gram Parsons.

Bonus track: Cimarron is probably my favorite EmmyLou record, and the title song is one of my favorite songs by anyone, but the tune I want to feature from that record is Chip Taylor's "Son of a Rotten Gambler." Both of these songs are fine examples of Harris' knack for choosing wonderful songs. Taylor is best known for writing "Wild Thing" and "Angel of the Morning."

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