It's spring and baseball season's just around the corner, an exciting time for renowned national pastime fanatic Emmylou Harris.
"I'm so ready," she declares. "When I got back from Europe last week, I tried to watch a spring training game on the MLB Network, but I was too tired and fell asleep."
The reason for the beatific songstress' recent travels is her upcoming album Hard Bargain, due April 26. With 11 new self-composed tunes, the album still take its title from one of its covers, a song written by the Canada's Ron Sexsmith. "It's a wonderful song," she asserts. "I think most artists are fans of Ron Sexsmith. He's just a lovely writer."
The album's centerpiece is "Darlin' Kate," written for Harris' close friend and collaborator Kate McGarrigle, who died last year of a rare form of cancer. "Losing her was a great loss," Harris relates. "She was a fierce friend, a great singer and songwriter and wonderful musician whether on guitar, banjo, piano, or accordion. It's my farewell letter to her."
With longtime collaborator and guitarist Buddy Miller, now in Robert Plant's Band of Joy, Harris takes a stripped-down approach to her live performances this week. She'll be joined by Hard Bargain's producer, guitarist Jay Joyce, who's worked with the like-minded Patty Griffin, Nanci Griffith, and Gillian Welch. Veteran handyman Giles Reaves provides everything else.
"I wanted to get back to a smaller ensemble to concentrate on the new songs," explains the 63-year-old Nashville songbird. "It's not a stripped-down record, though; there's only one song that's a little bare bones. I'm basically a slow ballad-y person. Jay managed to really move the songs up a bit, but they still have the same emotional feel."