The new Emmylou Harris (aka The Goddess of Music) CD goes on sale in about a month, so I'm starting the Eddie-torial countdown. Needless to say, I am so psyched about this and absolutely cannot wait. (I'm debating taking the morning off on release day so that I can be at Ear X-tacy when it opens to get a copy. Seriously.)
All of the reviews I'm reading are glowing and what I've heard so far is fabulous.
So, to pass the time, I'm starting a countdown to release featuring highlights and some of my thoughts about songs and albums and such.
First up, the early years:
I suppose the whole Gram Parsons/Emmylou Harris story has become such a part of American music history that there's no need to recap the whole thing. I do wish that more of it had been captured on film. There's simply not enough video record out there of the two of them singing together.
Even though it's his show, you can see and hear so much in her performances that speak to the performer and artist that she will become--especially those warm, achingly beautiful harmonies. I don't care who she sings with, she has such a way of elevating others' performances and adding such richness and depth with her harmonies, but she does it without ever taking over or stealing the show.
I'm not normally one for YouTube photo montages, but this one has such great shots of the two of them, plus some performance clips that I can't resist it. It's one of my favorite songs from the Gram/Emmy era:
Parsons is such a cutie in those old pics, that it almost makes you wonder what he'd look like had he lived. Would he have the rugged, survived-the-hard-life handsomeness of Kris Kristofferson?
Or the perennial hit-by-several-speeding-trains-simultaneously, lucky-to-be-alive-and-upright look of Keith Richards?
Of all the artists who have self-destructed way too early, there are only two that make me ponder the loss and imagine what might have been every single time I hear one of their songs. Parsons is one. Janis Joplin is the other.
I think that knowing what Emmylou's career has been is part of what makes me ponder what would have happened to Parsons. It's probably inevitable that she would have gone solo. She simply has too much talent not to. But would it have been a graceful parting? What would he have done post-Emmylou?
Of course, the flip side to that is what would her solo career have looked like if he were still around? She typically included a Parsons tune or two on her early albums. Would she have felt that need to keep his music alive if he were around to do it? Would she have done more songwriting in her early solo career? Would she have always made such interesting musical choices? Or would she have broken away from his influence and gone in a totally different and unexpected direction? Would we still have such a rich catalog of Emmylou Harris albums? Regardless of how differently things might have played out for her, one thing is for sure: it would have been worth listening to. Parsons may have helped her refine her talent, but her innate musicality was there from the beginning.
As for Parsons, I'd like to think that with the rise of the Americana and alt-country movements of the past ten years or so, he would have enjoyed a career resurgence on his own, which would have led to the inevitable Parsons/Harris reunion album.
One thing we wouldn't have, though, is this song, which she wrote after his passing. It rips my heart out every time I hear it.
Next time: My first Emmylou Harris album!