Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – [Album]

Friday, 31 May 2013

Emmylou Harris has done as much as anyone to make me a country fan, and Old Yellow Moon demonstrates how. Put simply, she and Rodney Crowell deliver the deep heart and soul of country music on this album.

Harris has always had a amazing talent for picking musical partners. She has worked with everyone from Bob Dylan to Neil Young, Linda Rondstadt to Willie Nelson, Steve Earle to Mark Knopfler. With each collaborator, she manages to work within their style, while retaining her distinctive character. Here, her partnership with country star Crowell brings her home to deep, pure country.

I'm going to say something that will piss off fans of both country and rap: at their worst, the two genres have a lot in common. Both music forms celebrate an outsider lifestyle, and its excesses; whether it's drinking or drugs, honky tonk angels or hos, rednecks or n*****s, they are indulging a specific identity. It becomes easy to forget that both genres can also explore emotional depths – but Emmylou and Rodney go straight for the emotional core of country on Old Yellow Moon. Songs like "Hanging Up My Heart," "Invitation to the Blues" and "Open Season on My Heart" bring heartache to life. "Chase the Feeling" tackles the downside of all the drinking in the aforementioned three songs and "Back When We Were Beautiful" explores the regrets and pleasures of aging. But it's not all downers: "Black Caffeine" and "Bull Rider" (both about exactly what they say) are pure fun.

On Old Yellow Moon, Harris also demonstrates her taste in song selections. Several songs here are ones Crowell wrote for others. "Bull Rider" was written for Johnny Cash, "Open Season on My Heart" for Tim McGraw; Harris previously recorded Crowell's "Here We Are" with George Jones. Other songs were penned by Kris Kristofferson, Roger Miller and Patti Scalfia. But in every case, the two singers inhabit the songs and reinvent them for themselves.

Finally there is Harris's voice. She has one of the most expressive, soulful voices in country or any genre of music. Listen to the longing she puts into "Spanish Dancer," or the combination of regret and wisdom in "Back When We Were Beautiful." Crowell often matches her, especially in his moving rendition of "Open Season on My Heart."

It's easy for us to put our listening into tight boxes, and exclude certain genres merely by their reputation. I have been guilty of this plenty of time myself. Emmylou Harris is the kind of artist who demonstrates how foolish and limiting that can be. On Old Yellow Moon, she does it again.



Old Yellow Moon
is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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