EmmyLou Harris “Hard Bargain”

Gram Parsons has been gone for over 35 years now. Yet his influence on Emmylou Harris isn’t just hinted at in her sound. No, every so often, she gathers up that internal feeling and writes another great song to honor her dear friend. See: Boulder to Birmingham.

I want to make sure that people know the other side of the story. We always hear how much Gram had to do with Emmylou’s early career. I want to make sure that people realize that this wasn’t a one way street. Emmylou may have helped Gram even more. Yes, you read it right.

Miss Emmylou

I’m referring to the Flying Burrito Brother era of Gram’s career and even into the period where he recorded his two solo albums for Reprise, Gram Parsons and G.P. I’ve read many accounts from this time, seen a few documentaries and spoken to a few people that were at some of those shows. The determination was pretty unanimous. Many of those shows were a mess. I heard a few interviews when Miss Emmylou was describing the rehearsal sessions, or lack thereof. She described how they never would actually play a song from beginning on thru to the end. They would start a song, pause, stop, and then go into a middle section of another track. Get bored with that, pause, stop and then play the ending of another number. This would go on for days. She had never been on tour before and thought, Well, I guess that’s just the way it’s done. It must come together magically on stage.

After a few nights, and living through a couple of disastrous gigs, she knew that wasn’t the case. She also knew this just wasn’t right. She was the one who decided to completely change the bands rehearsal procedures. She was the one that got Gram on the right path, performance-wise. This is hardly discussed at all. It’s time people know that Gram owed much to her. For that Emmylou, we thank you.

That brings us to her new album, Hard Bargain (Nonesuch Records). Not only does she feature a song about Gram on the disc, but she does so right from the top with a lovely song called “The Road.”

What you’ll notice quickly about this project is its intimacy. Three people, that’s it. Emmylou on guitar and vocal, Giles Reaves on any keyboard related and Jay Joyce anything guitar related.

Listening to stripped down versions of songs makes you do one thing every-time. Hear that voice better, hear those lyrics better, and that philosophy is true here as well. Not only will you learn more about touring with Gram in the previously mentioned “The Road”, but you’ll also hear the story about Emmitt Till.  You can listen to the cool slow groove feel of “Six White Cadillacs” in the video below.

She’s also written a lovely song called “Darlin’ Kate” about Kate McGarrigle. Kate lost her battle to cancer last year.

I’ve attached links to Emmylou’s Official Website and also to her tour schedule. Look for her this summer.

EmmyLou again composed nearly all of the music. She does bring in a little help from Will Jennings (as in Steve Winwood, Arc of a Diver fame) and also Ron Sexsmith.

To me, EmmyLou Harris is consistently releasing strong albums. Then she’ll pop in a special one here and there. This is one of the special ones.

—  Larry Carta

Track Listing

  1. “The Road” (Harris) – 5:31
  2. “Home Sweet Home” (Harris) – 3:45
  3. “My Name is Emmett Till” (Harris) – 4:53
  4. “Goodnight Old World” (Harris, Will Jennings) – 3:55
  5. “New Orleans” (Harris, Will Jennings) – 3:38
  6. “Big Black Dog” (Harris) – 3:26
  7. “Lonely Girl” (Harris) – 4:44
  8. “Hard Bargain” (Ron Sexsmith) – 3:23
  9. “Six White Cadillacs” (Harris, Will Jennings) – 3:22
  10. “The Ship on His Arm” (Harris) – 4:46
  11. “Darlin’ Kate” (Harris) – 3:08
  12. “Nobody” (Harris) – 5:04
  13. “Cross Yourself” (Jay Joyce) – 3:36


Listen to “Six White Cadillacs” from SXSW via IFC.

Here’s a bunch of the album

Posted by Larry Carta

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