Anthology: The Warner/Reprise Years
For 30 years and counting, Emmylou Harris has drawn on the whole of popular music a source of inspiration. At once an innovator and a traditionalist, she has an uncanny gift for translating what she hears into contemporary country terms. The 45 tracks here chart an assured artist's course -- Harris has always sounded like she knows exactly what she wants to do -- and are as smart as they are, often, unconventional. But her choices -- aided and abetted by her beautiful crystalline voice -- always aim to make the human connection between artist and listener rather than show off her good and catholic taste. Several acknowledged Harris classics are in this compelling collection: "Boulder to Birmingham," "Blue Kentucky Girl," and the haunting version of "To Know Him Is to Love Him," with fellow Trio conspirators Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt. No less powerful, though, are Harris's countrified interpretations of Lennon-McCartney ("Here, There and Everywhere"), Chuck Berry ("(You Never Can Tell) C'est La Vie"), and Paul Simon ("The Boxer"), as well as her linkage of country to R&B ("Pledging My Love") and to the Latin-tinged urban pop of Pomus-Shuman ("Save the Last Dance for Me"). Harris scholars will be delighted to know that several tracks show up on CD in the U.S. for the first time: "Fools Thin Air" and her take on Rodney Crowell's powerful "Precious Love," both of which were B-sides; "Driving Wheel" and "Pledging My Love" from the White Shoes album; and "White Line," "Rhythm Guitar," and "Timberline" from The Ballad of Sally Rose. Warner has about three times this amount of choice Emmylou material in its vaults, but for now, this taste is fine.