Tuesday Open Thread: Best Guest Harmony Singers

Josh Turner is singing the praises of Trisha Yearwood, his harmony partner on current single “Another Try”:

“I had already asked Trisha face to face if she would come in and sing on this song,” Josh told the national radio show GAC Nights: Live From Nashville. “She was like, ‘Sure, just send me the song and I’d love to let you know what I think.’ And so I sent her the song, and she said yeah, right off the bat, and came in and, just like a pro, sang like an angel. Honestly, I thought she was gonna come in and have all the parts worked out and not ask any questions, but she just came in by herself and said, ‘Hey, I wanna do whatever y’all want me to do, and I just wanna try and accomplish that, you know, ‘cause this is your record.’ That to me was pretty flattering, because it just showed how great of an artist she is.”

No surprise there.   Even before she was a star, she’d made Garth Brooks’ “Shameless” soar.   Listen for that trademark voice of hers toward the end of that classic hit, just one of many great harmony stints from Trisha Yearwood.

When thinking of my favorite harmony singers, the ones that come to mind are Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill and Patty Loveless.  Harris is always distinctive, which is why her guest appearances are such a treat.  Just listen to her harmonizing with Linda Ronstadt on “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love With You)”, which won Ronstadt a Grammy.

Sometimes you can hear Gill and Loveless too, but those two have the talent of fading into the background and making the lead vocalist shine. Ever wonder why Tim McGraw’s “Please Remember Me” sounds so powerful in the chorus, even though he’s not a powerful singer?  That’s Miss Patty Loveless doing the heavy lifting.     She did the same for Vince Gill on “When I Call Your Name”, as shown in the clip below, though she was just returning the favor, as he was her harmony partner on her first #1 hit “Timber I’m Falling in Love.”

Those three are definitely my favorite guest harmony singers.  Who are yours?


  1. Definitely Patty Loveless, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, Dolly, Trisha, Alison Krauss, and Ronnie Dunn.

    Special shout-out to Buddy and Julie Miller… and Dan Tyminski.

  2. Yay, I’m excited that Vince is getting some love!

    Of course, I think he is an excellent harmony singer, along with Patty Loveless and EmmyLou, both of whom have sung background vocals for Vince. As much as I love Vince, I don’t know if the songs that they have sung on for him would be the same without them: “When I Call Your Name” (Patty), “Bluebird Wine” (Emmylou), etc.. Likewise, Vince, as Kevin mentioned, has provided nice harmonies for them as well. I notice his voice on quite a few Patty records from the MCA years.

    I also think Alison Krauss is a wonderful harmony singer.
    It’s funny when Dolly Parton is asked to sing harmony, because she pretty much almost inserts herself as a featured guest as well. Technically, she only sings a few words without Brad Paisley on “When I Get Where I’m Going”, but the song is easily considered a duet because her vocals are so prominent that we forget that it actually isn’t a duet. Now, I love Dolly, but I don’t know if she is necessarily a gracious harmony singer, whether it’s intended or not. I don’t blame her though, because those who invite her to sing are well aware of her powerful pipes and that’s what they’re seeking when they call her. I’m sure Brad didn’t mind one bit that their song turned out to be considered a duet.

  3. Patty Loveless.

    She has a special knack for collaboration, harmony or otherwise. The CMA has honored her 3 times for Vocal Event of the Year. In addition to that, a strong number of terrific country songs have included her vocal stylings (When I Call Your Name, Please Remember Me, Monday Morning Church, Go Rest High on that Mountain, Pocket Full of Gold). She’s also worked with any number of diverse artists, such as Bob Seger, Alison Krauss, George Strait, Dwight Yoakam and Kathy Mattea with equal ease.

  4. I’m not gonna lie, when I was little, I used to listen to Garth Brooks songs just to hear Trisha Yearwood in the backgrounds….sounds kinda sad seeing it typed out…lol

  5. You know Gaby, I was always excited to hear Trisha sing background vocals for Garth too. She’s always popped in his songs. I think they sing very well together. While Trisha is clearly a better singer, I’ve always thought they had a similar quality to their voices…the way their voices crack, I think it is.

  6. you named my favorite three: emmylou, trisha, and patty

    as for dolly, her work on backup on “Gold” on emmylou’s new disc is very good–adds a lot to the song. You know its Dolly, but it adds a great layer (or maybe it just reminds me of the Trio albums I love)

  7. I agree with Leeann that Dolly’s usually not the most subtle harmony singer (I, for one, like Mindy Smith’s cover of “Jolene” much better in the version that doesn’t feature Dolly’s semi-shrieking on it), but I remember being very impressed by her ability to dial back the power and blend with, of all people, Norah Jones:

    Alison’s my all-time favorite, though.

  8. Thought of another great one with Patty: “Are You Teasing Me” with Jon Randall, from the Louvin Brothers tribute album. Their voices pop out and smack you in that song.

  9. Jon Randall has done some great harmony with Patty and Emmylou. Patty has been a harmony singer for Jon Randall as well on his Walking Among the Living CD (“I Shouldn’t Do This”, I think the song was).

  10. Dan, I think you chose a better word than I did; “subtle” is what meant more than “gracious.”

  11. You’re right about the Randall song, Leeann. I bought that song just to hear Patty’s harmony lol (and Jon’s voice is excellent too)…I also bought another song from that album(“No Southern Comfort” to hear Alison Krauss sing with him. I seem to buy a lot of songs that have Patty singing background vocals lol, just to hear her (Womack as well).

    Another person who’s good at harmonizing that we can’t forget is Ricky Skaggs. His voice on “Never Again, Again” and “Go Rest High On That Mountain” helped make them the great songs that they are. Speaking of Skaggs, The Whites are good at harmonizing as well.

  12. Jon Randall’s great all over that Mountain Soul album, but I gotta add my voice to those praising Ms. Yearwood as a harmony singer. She also made Mary Chapin Carpenter’s Shut Up And Kiss Me and Vince’s Whenever You Come Around shine….

  13. At the risk of sounding repetitive….
    Definitely Patty Loveless, Trisha Yearwood, and Alison Krauss.
    For the guys, definitely Vince Gill.

    Have to add Rosanne Cash and Rodney Crowell…. and not necessarily on each others work.

  14. CF, I’m definitely with you on Ricky Skaggs. Not only with the two you mentioned, but he sounds great with Emmylou too. He sings a lot with her on her Roses In the Snow album where his voice is very prominent.

    I also enjoy “No Southern Comfort.”

  15. Definitely Linda and Emmylou. Between the two of them, if you don’t count their WESTERN WALL collaboration, the two “Trio” albums, or those times that they sang on one another’s solo albums, these women probably have more harmony/backing vocal credits to themselves than any other two women in music history.

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