Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Happy Birthday Emmylou Harris

"May you one day carry me home"
Anyone who knows me knows I have a major crush on Emmylou Harris. Not only does she have one of the most pristine voices I've ever heard, she's also one hell of an American beauty. Today just so happens to be Emmylou's 61st birthday and in celebration I thought I'd share some of my favorite Emmylou collaborations. Of course, this was no easy task as Emmylou has a knack for remarkable collaborations. Whether it be her timeless work with Gram Parsons, the Trio records with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt, or her backing vocals on Dylan's Desire and Bright Eyes I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, Emmylou's sultry voice is so immaculate it could make doves cry.

While her catalog spans decades, one of my personal favorites is a rather recent track she recorded with Ryan Adams. The two met while filming a Gram Parsons tribute for the old PBS program Sessions at West 54th. As the story goes, Ryan was so nervous about performing with Emmylou that he vomited after singing the first line of "Grievous Angel" during rehearsal. Of course, he got over it in time to film an exquisite cover of one of my favorite Gram Parsons songs (see video below). The two must've hit it off, as Emmylou sings backup on Heartbreaker's "Oh My Sweet Carolina", a classic example of how her flawless vocal can make a sad song 'oh so sweet'.

One of her most famous collaborations is the only studio track from The Band's Last Waltz. Yes, The Last Waltz was the Band's last concert, and the Band did perform "Evangeline" on that fateful Thanksgiving night in 1978. However, Harris, who was asked to perform by Robbie Robertson, had prior touring commitments and couldn't make it, even going as far as suggesting "Why don't you get Dolly Parton?" Weeks later Robertson's vision of performing the song with Emmylou came true as she gathered with The Band at MGM studios for a post-concert shoot to be included in the film. The song, just over 3 minutes, ended up taking over 18 hours to shoot. No, that is not a typo. Harris says in the Last Waltz liner notes "If I had any thoughts about going into the acting business, they were squelched right there." Luckily, Martin Scorsese finally got a good take, and like David Fricke says in the liner notes, Emmylou "shimmered like an Appalachian angel in an ice-blue chorister's gown, her voice radiating chastity and sensuality in equal measure."

Happy Birthday Emmylou!

Ryan Adams & Emmylou Harris- Oh My Sweet Carolina

The Band & Emmylou Harris- Evangeline

Ryan Adams & Emmylou Harris "Return of the Grievous Angel"

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