Emmylou Harris Red Dirt Girl (Nonesuch)

Red Dirt Girl (Nonesuch)

Record Reviews

Emmylou Harris

Red Dirt Girl (Nonesuch)

Since she left country in her rearview mirror with 1995's Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris has ventured even further into America's musical backwaters. "We are soldiers from an ancient war," sings Harris on opener "The Pearl." Once it may have been "be-bop-a-lula," but these days her battle cry is more "alelluia." This when she's not fantasizing about "Michaelangelo," who was "riding on a blood-red painted pony" and something about a field of thorns. Red Dirt Girl peels off the lost highway between Dr. John's Anutha Zone and Daniel Lanois' Sling Blade score. "I Don't Want to Talk About It Now" has a peculiar trip-hoppy edge that works better than the Stevie Nicks-ish "J'ai Fait Tout" (despite former Luscious Jacksoner Jill Cunniff's spacey groove), and Patty Griffin's "One Big Love" is a languorous lap around an 808 track. Bruce Springsteen and Patti Scialfa add some supple harmonic textures to Harris and Rodney Crowell's "Tragedy," but don't exactly lighten things up, either. She'd rather speak of things holy, and when she gets filled by the spirit ("My Baby Needs a Shepherd," "Bang the Drum Slowly," "My Antonia"), she can be riveting, and never more so than the understated gospel of "Boy From Tupelo." Still, all the talk about destiny and "hard and holy roads" is a little depressing. Would it kill her to go downtown and rev it up just once? In this "hour of gold, hour of lead," has she forgotten the view from "Heartbreak Hill"?

*** 

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