If God has a singing voice it probably sounds like Emmylou Harris. That it has great beauty there is no doubt, but there is sadness too. Emmylou sings with all the weariness of a creator looking at the great madness, destruction and horror of the very world we live in. She is truly one of the great singers the world over. She's got the awards to prove it, too, having won over a dozen Grammys, a handful of Country Music Awards and tons of others.
It is little wonder then that she has been asked to sing along with hundreds of artists on countless albums. She has sang on albums from diverse of artists as Bob Dylan, Gillian Welch, Ryan Adams, The Band, Bright Eyes, Solomon Burke, Willie Nelson The Chieftains and so many others.
Truth be told, I prefer her collaborations over her solo work. On her own she still sings like a fallen angel, but her song choices and the performances just don't quite hold up. There are exceptions, of course, like her tremendous live album Spyboy and this one, Wrecking Ball. Both of those can be traced to the influence of producer Daniel Lanois.
In 1995 the two collaborated on Wrecking Ball and soon after she took that sound on the road for Spyboy (the closing track on that album, "The Maker" was written by Lanois and may just be the greatest things she's ever created.) Lanois moved her away from her traditional stripped down country sound and added an ethereal, spacey, atmospheric rock sound. Lanois is probably best known for his work with U2, Dylan, and Brian Eno and you can hear that sound here.
It was something of a career-change for Emmylou somewhat similar to what happened to Johnny Cash with his American Recordings albums. Like Johnny she'd become something of an elder statesman in country music and these albums (and the following ones) took her in a different direction, brought her to a younger, hipper crowd of fans and revitalized her career.
This new edition of that album has been remastered and contains an extra disk of alternate cuts and a DVD documentary on the making of the album. You can't beat that which is why Wrecking Ball is my Pick of the Week.
Also out this week that looks interesting:
- Winter at the Roxy - Lou Reed: The late, great Velvet was an intense, always fascinating live act. He performed at the Roxy in L.A. in 1976 which was recorded for a radio show at the time. Its made the rounds as an unofficial bootleg for years, and came out as a semi-official one a while back, but now its completely and totally official and its looks awesome. Free-jazz legend Don Cherry sits in creating some long jams in the process (Walk on the Wild Side clocks in at just over 10 minutes.)
- Duets - Linds Ronstadt: A compilation album of 14 duets featuring Ronstadt and folks like Bette Miller, Aaron Neville, Dolly Parton and James Taylor. Also includes a new track with Laurie Lewis.
- Love and Hate - Joan Osborne: Her one bit hit "One of Us" was kind of terrible and I normally would have completely written her off, but then I caught her singing with one of the Grateful Dead's post Jerry Garcia groups and she was phenomenal. I'm willing to give her solo albums another chance.
- Going Back Home - Wilko Johnson/Roger Daltrey: I got no idea who Wilko Johnson is but I'm happy to see Daltry getting some work outside of The Who.
- Carter Girl - Carlene Carter: June Carter's kid with her first husband has an album paying tribute to that wonderful family. I'm all ears.
- Tragedy Plus Comedy Equals Time - Patton Oswalt: It's so strange to me that the goofy guy in that terrible show The King of Queens has become one of the great comedic voices of this age, but here he is.