Emmylou Harris Cimarron (Eminent), and Emmylou HarrisLast Date (Eminent)


Emmylou Harris

Cimarron (Eminent)

Emmylou Harris

Last Date (Eminent)

Some guys drool over Cameron Diaz, for others it's Gwyneth Paltrow, but should it ever be this wayward scribe's lot to take a wife, all he asks is that his future bride resemble Emmylou Harris as much as possible. Razor-sharp intellect, unflagging passion for music, and a voice like an angel -- that pretty much sums up my wish list. (There's something about those silver tresses, too.) Maybe I should open the garage windows while spray-painting, but I immediately refer any skeptics to this pair of Eminent reissues. Coming directly after Harris' incredible run of seminal late-Seventies albums (Luxury Liner, Profile, Blue Kentucky Girl, Roses in the Snow, and Evangeline), and a much-deserved 1980 CMA win for Female Vocalist of the Year, Cimarron and Last Date find the Alabama-born, Virginia-reared thrush in peak form, mining a seemingly inexhaustible vein of top songwriters and effortlessly gliding between twangfired honky-tonk and translucent pop as usual. Her singular talent -- besides an impeccable ear -- has always been how she injects a hi-res gloss into her rootsier numbers without sacrificing an ounce of dirt-floor authenticity, likewise bringing a down-home aura to even the most Top 40 of selections: cf. Bruce Springsteen's "The Price You Pay" from Cimarron and "Racing in the Street" off Last Date. Hell, on her 1995 box set Portraits, James Taylor's "Millworker" sounds like a lost Maddox Brothers & Rose side. Here, both albums are uniformly excellent, so much so it's hard to single out specific instances of her gift. There's Cimarron's pair of hits, the pulse-quickening "Born to Run" and a heartstring-tugging duet with Don Williams on Townes Van Zandt's "If I Needed You," but the wispy "Rose of Cimarron," vivid "Son of a Rotten Gambler" (penned by "Wild Thing" author Chip Taylor), and aching "Tennessee Waltz" are equally powerful. Last Date is a treasure trove pure and simple, featuring the Gram Parsons triptych of "Return of the Grievous Angel," "Juanita," and "We'll Sweep Out the Ashes (In the Morning)" alongside Merle Haggard's "It's Not Love (But It's Not Bad)," Neil Young's "Long May You Run," and the timeless Floyd Cramer/Conway Twitty title track. Not one wilted rose in either bouquet, not even baby's-breath bonus tracks "Colors of Your Heart" (Cimarron) and "Another Pot O'Tea" and "Maybe Tonight" (Last Date). However, were I duct-taped to a chair, doused with gasoline, and forced to choose between the two at matchpoint, it would be Last Date. Culled from various 1982 California dance-hall dates with her sizzling Hot Band, it gets the nod for Hank Snow's frisky "I'm Movin' On," Carl Perkins' restive "Restless," and a closing Buck Owens medley of "Buckaroo" -- with Harris on lead guitar -- and a priceless "Love's Gonna Live Here." But for heaven's sakes, buy both. You'd marry her too.

(Cimarron) ****

(Last Date) *****

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