Emmylou Harris | Hard Bargain

Nonesuch (2011)
By NICK A. ZAINO III  |  May 18, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Anyone with a passing knowledge of Emmylou Harris will recognize that "The Road," the opening track on Hard Bargain, is about Gram Parsons and the relationship that kicked off her career 40 years ago. Not quite nostalgic, the song is more a recognition of what got her to the present, where she's still singing and writing beautifully after all these years: "I have spent my whole life out here working on the blues." Hard Bargain is a gorgeous album. Even when Harris is singing about homelessness ("Home Sweet Home") or floods ("New Orleans"), the focus is on strength and perseverance. "My Name Is Emmett Till" could easily have been a pious coffeehouse anthem, but Harris takes a straightforward approach to the story of the 14-year-old's 1955 murder, with no elaboration until the final verse, when she imagines Till looking back at what might have been. "Darling Kate" addresses another fallen collaborator, Kate McGarrigle. But it's not all deadly serious: "Big Black Dog" is the best canine ode since Neil Young's "Old King." The album sounds full and warm, especially when you consider it was recorded in only a month with just two supporting musicians, producer Jay Joyce and multi-instrumentalist Giles Reaves. Harris ends by looking forward with Joyce's "Cross Yourself," singing, "Everything that's meant to be, come to me," a fitting resolution to this tribute to faith and hope.
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  Topics: CD Reviews , Music, Emmylou Harris, Emmylou Harris,  More more >
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