Friday, 30 November 2012

Hard Bargain- Emmylou Harris

There are very few artists who continually reach the peak with each offering, Emmylou Harris is one of those artists, an impeccable interpreter of songs that tell stories of loves and loss and heartache, from each note she wrings something special. As per usual I'm somewhat behind the times as this album was released last year, but having just graced our shores it seemed an apt time to write about this album. Unfortunately I didn't get to see her live show but from all reports it was fantastic.

Although not a prolific songwriter Harris took the opportunity with this album to focus a little more on her own songwriting and the results are really pleasing listening, there is a depth of emotion that you would expect from her but as always the album defies direct categorisation, that is what makes her so good. The Road is a tribute to her musical muse Gram Parsons, looking back over her shoulder she reminisces of their younger years together and how they rocked the night away, she went looking for the answer with three chords and the truth. Home Sweet Home is a yearning song for a place to lay your head and a crumb or two for your daily bread, it's a song that resonates with a deep desire to fins somewhere to belong, something many can relate to.

My Name Is Emmett Till is chilling Harris' voice is mesmerising as she tells the story of Emmett Till a young 14 year old boy who was brutally murdered in Mississippi in the 1950's. When his body was returned to Chicago his mother insisted on an open casket so the world could see the horrific injuries that he suffered.

There came a cry for justice then
To be finally fulfilled
All because of me a black boy
My name is Emmett Till.

Goodnight Old World has a beautiful weariness to it that sometimes in the midst of turmoil we do meet the sun with the eyes of a child. New Orleans has a thumping rock sound to it it's a tribute to that magnificent city and an affirmation that the city has come back bigger and stronger since Hurricane Katrina. Lonely Girl is once again reflective time waits for no man as each day blends into the next you can hear the desperation as she sings I'm a lonely girl, in a lonely world. As with each song the musical accompaniment never overshadows it serves only to highlight her voice, that is the work of a very good producer and Jay Joyce has created the right setting. The title track is a Ron Sexsmith number with some nice banjo, but it's not country Emmylou always takes it beyond and further up the dirt road.

Six White Cadillacs has a nice restrained funkiness to it not sure if it's autobiographical but she sings of singing in honky tonks  to drunks and wanting only some piece of mind and to be carried home in six white Cadillacs with angels in the front and back! Darlin Kate is a stirring tribute to singer Kate McGarrigle, the honesty of feeling in the song,

Free from the pain
You laid that burden down
But your strong and giving heart
Will surely be your crown

Hard Bargain reminds us of the power of the voice and what it is to be able to write songs that resonate with beauty as well as desperation and worry, in her music Emmylou encapsulates what it is to experience, what it    is to feel.

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