Single Review: Emmylou Harris, “The Road”

The story of Emmylou Harris is well established, the stuff of legend at this point.

She could’ve been Gram Parsons’ harmony singer for the rest of her career and been happy, but she ended up carrying on his legacy instead, becoming a Hall of Famer with the most consistently excellent catalog in country music history.

She’s addressed Parsons in song before, most directly with the grief-stricken classic “Boulder to Birmingham” from her 1975 classic Pieces of the Sky. Whereas that was a statement of heartbreak to a lost friend, “The Road” is a letter of gratitude, thanking him for starting her on a journey that she never would have embarked upon alone.

For future music historians, this song will be a goldmine.  For listeners, it’s pretty good, too.  Harris is a solid songwriter and her lyrics are closer to poetry than standard Nashville writing.  Her voice is showing signs of wear, but much like on the later work of Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash, that works to her advantage.

Is it as good as the best tracks on All I Intended to Be or Stumble Into Grace?  Not quite, especially if you don’t know the back story and can’t fill in the gaps. But even very good Emmylou Harris is better than most of what’s out there today.  Still, I hope the rest of her upcoming album is more than just very good Emmylou Harris.

Written by Emmylou Harris

Grade: B+

Listen: The Road

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9 Comments

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9 Responses to Single Review: Emmylou Harris, “The Road”

  1. I look forward to the new album for sure.

    It’s worth noting that My Kind of Country is doing a month long spotlight on Harris this month. It’s off to a great start with a great writeup and a couple album reviews. I only got into Emmylou Harris music no more than three years ago thanks to Kevin raving about her. I knew who she was, but never really listened to her music. I suspect that’s the case with a lot of our readers, so this is as good of a time as any to gain a new favorite artist like I did.:)
    http://mykindofcountry.wordpress.com/

  2. Erik NorthNo Gravatar

    Kevin, you sure got it right about Emmy. This great sage female artist, who incidentally turned the big six-four on April 2nd, trumps everybody else in her gender out there in country music these days by being herself. It’s a shame that country radio rejected her in the 1990s, but it’s their loss, and our gain (IMHO).

  3. Michael A.No Gravatar

    Has CU ever tackled a FSBFA or Starter Kit for Emmylou Harris? I’d love to see one in the future… if you’re searching for something to write. :)

  4. Like Leeann, I’ve always known Emmylou Harris and her music but have never given her enough energy. But I’ve really been enjoying getting to know her musical catalog. I’ve downloaded her first three albums and they’ve proven more than a worthwhile listen.

    the Emmylou album reviews on My Kind of Country have opened my eyes to an artist I should have been listening to years ago. But better now than never.

    I haven’t listened to “The Road” yet but plan to. I’m grateful to Kevin for the background on this song, I may never have known it was about Gram Parsons.

    This is what’s so fantastic about country music blogs like this one – they never shy away from honoring the past while still offering excellent discussions about the present. Country music has always been more than just the top 40, and it’s nice to know there are people out there who still remember that.

  5. KevinNo Gravatar

    Yes, here’s the FSBFA I wrote on Emmylou in 2008:

    http://www.countryuniverse.net/2008/02/20/test/

  6. Thanks for the link, Leeann.

  7. Michael A.No Gravatar

    Thanks Kevin. It looks like I actually commented on it too… two years ago. Yikes!

  8. Pingback: New artist obsession: Emmylou Harris « Jonathan Pappalardo's

  9. TomNo Gravatar

    …almost unbelievable, a recent country song with the word “road” in it and not cherishing the missing black top or an open fire with some pick-up trucks leisurely thrown into the picture.

    clearly, songs about the universal theme of love almost always beat songs about rural southern transport ways by a country mile.

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