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
Listen: The Road