Red Dirt Girl (Nonesuch Records)

Emmy Lou Harris, Album, Review

Throughout her 30-year career, Emmylou Harris has remained an unparalleled interpreter of other writers' songs. Now, on her first solo CD since 1995's Grammy-winning Wrecking Ball, she proves her songwriting is as eloquent as her voice. This creatively fearless album breathes passion and urgency, fusing elements of folk, country, rock and alternative music into a rich, cohesive whole. Emmylou wrote or cowrote 11 of its 12 tracks, delving deeply into intensely personal subjects like lost opportunities, eroding relationships and her regrets after the death of her war-veteran father. The most compelling offerings include "Bang The Drum Slowly," an atmospheric elegy for her dad, and the title cut, an evocative tale of an Alabama girl's unrealized dreams. The poetic imagery of Emmylou's lyrics is particularly strong in "Michelangelo," a shimmering lament for a love long gone.

This album is a powerful testament to Emmylou's strength as a creative pathfinder. Her voice shines against the album's sonic textures, melding pain and glory as it drifts from edgy to achingly wistful.

Since her early work with Gram Parsons, Emmylou has stretched the boundaries of country music while preserving and honoring its heritage. Red Dirt Girl travels past familiar landmarks into a realm where the soul is laid bare, making it an unforgettable milestone on her lifelong musical journey.

-- Carol Shaughnessy

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