Eminent. 14 tracks.
The verdict: Country-rock queen ages, but doesn't abdicate.
They are quite possibly two of the purest sounds on the planet: the clear notes of an acoustic guitar and Emmylou Harris' voice. This new album from Nashville's earth mother is built on both, proving that, decades after her hippie days with Gram Parsons, the granola-flavored, country-rock formula still works. Like Nanci Griffith, Harris' voice is the solid centerpiece, whether she's wailing an a capella, piney-woods hymn ("Calling My Children Home") or growling like Wynonna ("Ain't Living Long").
The tunes here aren't particularly distinctive; you could easily throw on a Harris album from the 1970s and not tell the difference. In fact, two of the highlights are songs excavated from those beaded-and-braided days: "Love Hurts" and "Boulder to Birmingham." Recorded before a live audience, the sound is warm and intimate, with little clutter from the crowd and harmonies much richer than most studio albums.
Harris may not have changed her sound much in 20 years, and we've watched her hair turn gray and her contemporaries (Linda Ronstadt) fade into reminders of the vinyl era. But, unlike many other acoustic artists who came out of the pot-and-pedal-steel scene of the early '70s, Harris has managed to avoid becoming a cliche, mainly because her voice is so timeless.