Monday, May 9, 2011

Critic's Corner- Emmylou Harris- Hard Bargain- CD Album Review

“The mark of a great storyteller is in the listener wanting more. They draw you in with a premise or protagonist that connects on a personal level, creating a tie that binds. Emmylou Harris had me in knots- particularly on one of the favorite tracks of the year on “My Name is Emmett Till.” Using the true story of a gruesome killing of a southern black boy as the base, the song is at once sorrowful, historical and powerful. It caused me to spend another hour looking into the back-story of the song- not because it didn’t provide enough details, but it wove a story so incredibly well, I had to know more. Not quite country and not quite folk, Hard Bargain reflects the musical stylings of 2008’s All I Intended To Be more than any other of her other previous albums. The storytelling, however, is exactly like her 30+ years of musical history. Masterful.”
Ken Morton, Jr.
That Nashville Sound

“Few weave stories like Emmylou Harris. Her Hard Bargain is a collection of tales that can make us feel whole again. In the case of Hard Bargain, simple storytelling is the name of the game. Harris draws on a deceptively basic set of words, concocting songs of experience and passion that only a performer with her life could craft. Emmylou Harris, now 64 years old, has built a record with her bare hands. Constructed with simple materials, Hard Bargain is perhaps more than a collection of her stories. It's something to put our stories in.”
Jordan Richardson
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

“Brimming with ethereal sorrow, Harris sympathetically gives voice to the black teenager whose grisly 1955 murder became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. Personal tributes “Darlin’ Kate” and “The Road” seem to be attracting most of the attention, but this one (“My Name is Emmett Till) is beautifully done.”
CM Wilcox

“Her voice revealing cracks as fine as her white hair, Harris actually sounds better — more open and passionate — on Hard Bargain than she has since starting her career. Speaking of which, her salute to mentor Gram Parsons, ''The Road,'' is lovely nostalgia, and there's a rare flash of fun cornball humor on ''Big Black Dog.'' Her grief over the 2010 death of friend/musician Kate McGarrigle (''Darlin' Kate'') is palpable. Some of the story-songs are drippy, but that voice remains dry.”
Ken Tucker
Entertainment Weekly

“Over the latter half of a career that has spanned four decades, Emmylou Harris has gravitated toward spare, acoustic ballads that highlight the ethereal qualities of her distinctive voice. Though that style has resulted in some exceptional work, including 2008's All I Intended to Be, it's also made her output somewhat predictable. Her latest, Hard Bargain, stands as a pleasant surprise, then, because it regularly kicks up the tempo and gives Harris ample opportunities to prove that she can still belt and growl with the best of them.”
Jonathan Keefe
Slant Magazine

“Whether you lose a soulmate at 26 or 62, the pain is the same. Emmylou Harris’s much-mythologized partner Gram Parsons died in 1973 and her frequent collaborator Kate McGarrigle left us last year. Harris looks back at both of her departed friends on her new album: Parsons is the subject of the relaxed-sounding, feel-good opener The Road and McGarrigle is plainly and directly addressed in the simple and sentimental Darlin’ Kate. It could have been maudlin or exploitative, but what makes Harris’s 21st studio album such an engaging meditation on loss — and the importance of grabbing life by the collar while you can — is the disc’s graceful optimism in the face of life’s blindsides.”
Bernard Perusse
Montreal Gazette

“If there is a one guarantee in the music world, it is that an Emmylou Harris will be filled with gorgeous singing. Since gracing Gram Parsons' solo albums in the early '70s, Harris' vocals have been among the most heavenly in contemporary music. Her latest effort, "Hard Bargain," is no exception. The disc soars on Harris' signature vocals, an exquisite intertwining of the earthy and ethereal. Matching her always-beautiful singing with a set of personal, emotionally-moving songs, Hard Bargain marks another triumphant recording in a career filled with memorable work.”
Michael Berick

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