michael gallucci

ALBUM REVIEW — EMMYLOU HARRIS

In album review on 04/07/2011 at 10:42 am

Emmylou Harris

Hard Bargain

(Nonesuch)

Only three people play on Emmylou Harris’ first album in three years, and the 64–year-old singer-songwriter is one of them. But Hard Bargain sounds big and spacious, like all of the albums she’s made since 1995’s career turnaround Wrecking Ball. Still, there’s more emphasis on songs rather than mood here, as Harris looks back on a life of relationships. The album’s opening track, and centerpiece, is “The Road,” a eulogy to Gram Parsons, who gave Harris her big break 40 years ago. “I’ve carried on,” she sings, “You can’t be haunted by the past.” But Hard Bargain sounds haunted by so many ghosts. The stripped-down production echoes with nostalgia, and Harris can’t shake her memories on “Home Sweet Home,” “Big Black Dog,” and “Darlin’ Kate.” Not that she should. They mean a lot.

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