Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., Dec. 7, 2007
Emmylou HarrisSongbird (Rhino)
This one's for the fans. Those of us that can't get enough of that angelic voice and its genre-busting way with a song. Over the course of a 4-CD/1-DVD set, Emmylou Harris travels the back roads of her career and creates a collection that's enthralling and adventuresome. Few artists have mixed folk, country, rock, and bluegrass in a way that opened each to reinterpretation, and on Songbird, she lays out a blueprint on how it's done without relying on the tried and true. From her earliest recording in 1970 and her initial defining moments with Gram Parsons to Harris' later, ethereal work, it's all here. With tracks selected by the artist, the first two discs follow her career, concentrating on her acclaimed solo albums from the 1970s into the 1990s, including duets with Parsons, of course, but also Waylon, Willie, and others. The other discs are loaded with unissued performances, duets of all sorts (Sheryl Crow, George Jones, Beck, Steve Earle, and the Pretenders among them), plus tunes she contributed to compilations and tribute albums over the years. Only the 30-minute DVD seems a little skimpy, though a duet with Elvis Costello on "Love Hurts" at the Grand Ole Opry last year is a real treat. Overall, Songbird proudly delineates nearly 40 years of Harris' artistry and her ability to inject daring and spirit into anything she endeavors.