In a career spanning 30-plus years, Harris’ constants have been her high standard of quality (in her material, in her bandmates, in herself) and her unpredictability. That she has managed to remain popular while refusing to stay in one place is the stamp of a true artist.
Only Harris could go back to her roots and maintain this level of integrity. This is neither a concession or a retread.
After iconoclastic, outside-the-box albums like Wrecking Ball, Red Dirt Girl, and Stumble Into Grace – with producers Daniel Lanois (Dylan, U2, the Neville Brothers) and Malcolm Burn (Shawn Colvin, Patti Smith, Peter Gabriel) – Harris enlisted Brian Ahern, who produced her debut, Pieces Of Sky, in 1975. Also onboard are engineer Donivan Cowart (who dates back to Emmy’s third album, Luxury Liner) and alumni from the Hot Band and various incarnations, including pianist Glen D Hardin, bassist Emory Gordy, guitarists Richard Bennett and John Starling, and Steve Fishell, who splits steel guitar duties with Greg Leisz. Spy Boy guitarist/producer Buddy Miller’s duties are confined to background harmonies – along with Vince Gill, Dolly Parton, the McGarrigle Sisters (Kate and Anna), and Seldom Scene’s Mike Auldridge (who, needless to say, doubles on Dobro).
Harris contributes more originals than usual – her six contributions (with two collaborations with the McGarrigles, including “How She Could Sing The Wildwood Flower,” for June Carter Cash) holding their own alongside material from Tracy Chapman, Merle Haggard, Patty Griffin, and Billy Joe Shaver. There’s a spare, acoustic atmosphere to the cuts, even when Fabulous Superlative Kenny Vaughn adds electric guitar, along with Harry Stinson’s drums and Glen Worf’s bass. There’s nary an uptempo song in the set, so taste is the order of the day, not chops, and all concerned deliver in spades.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’08 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.