Warner Brothers/Rhino R278140
Back before the Dixie Chicks brought bluegrass instruments to millions of country listeners, before Patty Loveless returned to her mountain music roots, before Ricky Skaggs and Alison Krauss charted on country radio with bluegrass songs, Emmylou Harris took the plunge and made a bluegrass album. Considering that it's Harris, you wouldn't expect it to be totally traditional; the adventurous singer struck out against country mainstream by even making an album with bluegrass instrumentation and songs when Roses in the Snow was first issued at the height of the urban cowboy boom in 1980. She also startled those who were ready to welcome her into the traditional music ranks by including Paul Simon's "The Boxer" and the bluesy "Miss the Mississippi and You" right along with "Green Pastures" and "Gold Watch and Chain." She proved that country audiences were willing to listen, too: "The Boxer" went to number 13 on the country charts of 1980 and "Wayfaring Stranger" reached number 7. The ten tracks on the original recording remain fresh with each listening some twenty two years on. Harris' intelligent and restrained interpretation and backing by the likes of Skaggs, producer Brian Ahern, and Jerry Douglas illuminate the joyous title track, the lover's taunt "I'll Go Stepping Too," and the haunting spiritual "Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn," among others. This reissue adds two tracks recorded at the original sessions, Hank Williams' (senior) country blues "You're Gonna Change" and the Celtic flavored love ballad "Root Like a Rose," written by Nancy Ahern. The liner notes include comments from Harris and others about the recording and several additional images from the original album cover photo shoot. It's vintage Harris, a classic only made better by the passage of time.
by Kerry Dexter