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Emmylou Harris - Pieces Of The Sky (Expanded & Reissue)
CD Review by Jim Moulton

This is the "Queen Of Country Music", Emmy Lou Harris' first record. A Warner Brother's project manager had heard her sing with Gram Parsons on his last recording before he died. So, Brian Ahern was sent out east with a cassette recorder to Silver Spring, Maryland to check her out. Ahern recorded four live sets of her with her band. Ahern was immediately impressed and that was all that Warner Brothers needed to hear.
Ahern played Harris hours of material that didn't interest her. Ahern thought of a new songwriter that He was working with (Rodney Crowell), Harris immediately connected with Crowell's work. She had been listening to lots of country traditionalists after Parson's death.

This is a very eclectic selection of songs that maybe were not country before Harris and Ahern got a hold of them. Lot's of top flight studio musicians were brought in. Glen D. Hardin (pianist) was picked to be the sessions leader. Don't ask me why they didn't use a studio. Ahern brought his huge lead shielded sound truck down to use as the recording base. They parked it outside of a huge rancher in Beverly Hills and ran snakes of chords into the house to make it a recording area, even a mike in the pool area outside for reverb. Ahern is a musical genius, he even worked with Rhino on the reissue on the remixing and mastering. Nobody does a recording like Rhino, just heads above everyone else in my humble opinion. Sonic Excellence.

Her first record is before the infamous hotband existed, yet elements of the beginning were there. Glen D. Hardin And James Burton (guitarist). Ron Tutt played drums. Brian Ahern on acoustic guitar, (Harris played guitar on a couple of tracks). Ben Keith on pedal steel (Neil Young). Ricky Skaggs on fiddle. The record was basically recorded live with Brian Ahern driving the whole band with his acoustic guitar after he watched Harris chord the song.

The record jump starts with "Bluebird Wine" (Crowell), an upbeat country song with great fiddle and a great vocal performance. This is not a loud recording yet a very aurally exciting one. Great interplay with this pro set of studio musicians. 

"Too Far Gone" (Sherrill) is a beautiful heartbreak song. You really don't notice Ron Tutt's drumming that much, but he is excellent. (Later, he played with the Jerry Garcia Band). Really hard to describe Harris's vocals. So beautiful, so rich, so country, yet she used great control. 

The album's first hit was it's second single "If I Could Only Win Your Love" (Louvin) - a great upbeat duet with Heb Pederson, nice mandolin. The Album eventually went Gold. 

This reviewer's favorite is a Harris song "Boulder To Birmingham" - her eulogy to Gram Parsons. A real nice slow, emotional ballad that has her voice rising in crescendos with great backup vocals, real nice fades on the pedal steel. The lyrics really hit you. Acoustic guitars sound great with one Nashville tuned acoustic. "I would rock my soul in the bosom of Abraham if I thought I could see your face." 

Some other greats are Haggard's "Bottle Let Me Down", Parton's "Coat Of Many Colors" and The Beatles "For No One".
Well, I have gone on enough, just a great first record , if you love real country music, this is one to get,  also two bonus tracks.

www.rhino.com
www.emmylou.net

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