Saturday, May 7, 2011

Emmylou stays true, through thick and thin

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I have been in love with Emmylou Harris longer than I care to remember. Decades. Since the '70s.

Unlike other loves, she has never disappointed me, she has never left me, she has never let me down.

Not once.

I'll confess I fell for her name first. Emmylou. How could you not fall in love with a gal named Emmylou?

And then, somewhere long ago, I heard her voice. In a dorm room perhaps, or maybe it was in my spartan first apartment, where my only other company was James Taylor.

I always thought the two would make the perfect couple, but I'm glad that never happened. I would have been green with jealousy. Her country-folk, her bluegrass, her honky-tonk ways were all mine.

Although she has evolved as an artist over the years — as all good artists do — I'm happy to report her voice remains as distinctive as ever. I'm not sure how to describe it. The New York Times' Jon Pareles called it "slender but tangy and determined" the other day.

That sounds about right to me.

I might add a tad melancholy, too, which matched perfectly with my confusing post-college years.

Harris' newest album, Hard Bargain, was released last week and, like all her others, will take a place of honor on my living room shelf.

And its songs, the majority written by Harris, will soon become part of my Emmylou Harris repertoire.

Like many of you, I'm sure, I sing along with my favorite artists. Only when alone, of course. I don't need to be in the shower. I sing when I'm doing the dishes. I sing when I'm ironing. I sing when I'm making the bed.

You would not confuse my voice for Emmylou's, which is always in the background actually carrying the tune. The Trio album she made with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton becomes a quartet at our house. Lucky girls, I know. Lucky me.

Our dinner guests are accustomed to sitting through the two-CD Emmylou Harris Anthology, which covers her formative years from 1975 to 1990. If I Needed You with Don Williams, One of These Days, Save the Last Dance for Me.

I always have and always will.

Every now and then my partner, Jack, will suggest we mix it up a bit, perhaps have someone other than Emmylou serenade us during cocktail hour. But why would we do that, I ask?

Emmylou, with her glorious silver hair, just turned 64. I'll be 62 in October.

It's not too late to get together.

You know. Maybe make a little music.


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