ARTIST: EMMYLOU HARRIS

TITLE: ALL I INTENDED TO BE

LABEL: NONESUCH RECORDS

Release Date: Spring 2008

By Susie Glaze

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"Here I go again..." begins Emmylou Harris on her luminous new album, a fitting beginning for this great artist's first new recording since 2003. Produced by Brian Ahearn, with the title taken from the lyrics of the Billy Joe Shaver song offered here, this listening experience is like coming home to an old friend you thought you'd lost: loving, gracious, soulful and full of gentle understanding.

No one who has ever heard Emmylou can ever forget her stunning sound. Whether in the middle of a rock and roll track, a country standard, or simply with lone guitar, she can command the listener with a pure emotional presence. You feel as though she is singing just to you, and all expressions are intimate. Here she is offering up an example of the power of simplicity and a vision of how growing older can be exquisite. Harris herself says "I'm still trying to expand my listening horizons, to find the kind of music that resonates for what we know to be true at this point in our lives. When you get to be 60, it's not like you stop living. In fact, I think you live more and do have something to say."

Indeed, the songs are like prayers, for the past and for the future. The album begins with Shores of White Sand by Jack Wesley Routh, offered as a memorial tribute to Keith Knudsen who died a few years back.

Some say I'm sinking to the muddy bottom

But somehow I'm sailing

to shores of white sand.

She continues with some looking back in sadness, such as on Broken Man's Lament (Mark Germino) and Merle Haggard's Kern River. Harris' own song Gold (with Dolly Parton and Vince Gill on harmony vocals) is a fantastic old-style country waltz that talks about not being able to measure up to someone else's needs (I'll never be Gold). Her collaboration with the McGarrigle sisters on How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower is written in a style that warms my heart. Harris traveled to Montreal to work with the McGarrigle's, and with their command of such poetic, beautiful simplicity, you can see why. The spirits of Mother Maybelle and Sara Carter live inside that tune and it's a tribute to them and to A.P. It tells their story anew. Their second collaboration is on Sailing Round the Room, a lovely light-hearted acceptance of where our spirits might go when we leave this life:

I could be a drop of summer rain

Falling down on an Oklahoma plain

I won't leave the world behind me

Look around and you will find me.

But the most powerful songs for me were Harris' own compositions. In Take That Ride she seems to be asking the Great One above

Don't you believe it's time to let me go

The clock is winding down and I'm moving slow

I could keep on dancing but it's just for show....

One of these days I'm gonna take that ride.

And in Not Enough she grieves loss:

Life is long and life is tough

But when you love someone

Life's not long enough.

Those words hit home like a dagger. If you've ever lost someone dear to you, truer words could never be spoken:

All those years

Disappear

And all my tears

Are not enough

Not enough...

Emmylou has always found diamonds in the rough, songs from all corners of the genre spectrum and always brought them to a new place. Tracy Chapman's All That You Have Is Your Soul is a fine bit of wisdom speaking down through the ages (don't be tempted by the shiny apple), and Patty Griffin's Moon Song is about a faith unfulfilled and a betrayed trust

(Waited for you till the snow fell down

Over my skin like a thin nightgown...

Drank all I could swallow

Now the moon's gonna follow me home).

The words that came to mind as I paused the music were "humility and bravado." Humility is for the material and the real lives it represents, and bravado is for the strength and certainty to sing out them. The combination results in a unique kind of graceful artist: one that can accept the limitations of our life (whether due to fate or grief or just bad luck), while knowing deeply where our true nature thrives and blossoms. This must be at the heart of this album.

Players include Brian Ahern, Tim Goodman, Emory Gordy, Jim Horn, Keith Knudsen, John McPhee, Bill Payne, Stuart Duncan, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, with guests Dolly Parton and Vince Gill on harmony vocals. What would Nashville do without Stuart Duncan these days? I believe he's my new hero.

A note about something great: Offered with this downloadable album is a liner notes booklet in PDF format which is printable or just viewable, and I for one really love that. Without it, a purchaser needs to go to the artist's website for all the background, which is not a bad thing, but I really want to see the artwork offered with albums. To me, it's a huge part of it - a visual accompaniment to the artist's statement that serves up almost as big a message as the music itself.

Award-winning recording artist and critically-acclaimed Bluegrass powerhouse vocalist, Susie Glaze has been called by BLUEGRASS UNLIMITED "...an important voice on the California Bluegrass scene." Her new release Green Kentucky Blues and others can be found at www.susieglaze.com