• Emmylou Harris

    14 Ago 2005, 13:31

    Emmylou Harris isn't an artist I gravitate to naturally, but reading this brilliant piece by Ron Rosenbaum (it appeared on page 1 in the August 1, 2005 edition of The New York Observer) made me want to hear her latest album, The Very Best of Emmylou Harris: Heartaches & Highways. (The link is to my cached copy on Yahoo!'s My Web — to access which you'll have to register [free]. A personal copy can be obtained from the NYO for a fee.)

    If you can get past the first killer song on that album, a duet with her legendary soulmate Gram Parsons on 'Love Hurts', then you have to face the all-time lethal lost-love song, the one she co-wrote about Gram Parsons' death, 'Boulder to Birmingham'. Then you've got to deal with the insidiously plaintive 'Making Believe' and Townes Van Zandt's mysterioso melancholy classic 'Pancho and Lefty', about the treachery that destroys friendship.

    That's just the first four songs and if you get through them without being a total emotional wreck, I envy you. I congratulate you on your cold-bloodedness. You are immune to emotion. Welcome to the Sociopaths' Hall of Fame.

    Having been tipped off to the Emmylou appearance by Observer intern Max Abelson, I thought: What's the point of being a writer if I can't meet someone whose songs have both ruined my life and consoled me for the losses?

    After all, in my last column I got to celebrate a Venus of the stage, Claire Bloom, who played the goddess of love in Shakespeare's 'Venus and Adonis' recently (The Observer, July 18, 2005). It was Shakespeare's Venus who put an eternal curse on all love and lovers (Sorrow on Love hereafter shall attend /Find sweet beginning, but unsavoury end). Emmylou Harris is our contemporary Venus, who, like Claire Bloom, raises these sorrows to a cosmic pitch.

    I'm not alone in thinking this way about Emmylou. And she's not alone in my pantheon of sad-song goddesses: I've written about my devotion to Rosanne Cash, and Margo Timmins of Cowboy Junkies. (O.K., I've proposed marriage to both of them in print. Not at the same time.) And Rickie Lee Jones — don't get me started.

    But I have to say, my extreme obsession with Xtreme Sad Songs began with Emmylou's 'Boulder to Birmingham'. Listen to it once and you know she has an instinct for the black hole in the soul.

    Blackholes! Rosenbaum goes on:

    … she told me the story of a guy in one of her bands, Roy Huskey Jr., a bass player who told her that he had synaesthesia: He saw musical notes as colors. And she remembered that he'd always say that, alone of all the notes, B flat was very, very, very black, really, really dark. The funny thing is, she then told me, I was reading the paper a while ago, and I came upon a report that black holes are now reported to emit sounds. And that the sound emitted is B flat! It sounded too good to be true, but when I returned home and Googled the matter, it seemed to be quite true.

    Read the article and listen to Emmylou …