Record #361: Emmylou Harris – Evangeline (1981)

To paraphrase Arrested Development, if you’re picking through discarded collections, “you’re gonna get some [Emmylou Harris].”
The legendary country starlet has an absolutely massive catalogue of solo records on top of frequent collaborations and guest appearances (in the ‘00s, she supplied guest vocals for both Ryan Adams and Bright Eyes), and as one of the more popular country singers in the business, her records aren’t hard to come by.

This, her eighth album in twelve years, is made up of outtakes from previous recording sessions that didn’t quite fit on previous records. The result is as disjointed and splintered as you’d imagine. Especially considering how her regular studio albums aren’t exactly the most cohesive projects put to tape.

Emmylou made a career out of her masterfully arranged covers of other artists’ work (which is somehow much more forgivable in country music), and this album is no exception. Moodwise, she has always been the most successful singing mournful, midtempo ballads, and the ballads on this disc are truly spectacular. Opener “I Don’t Have to Crawl,” with its minor key and phased guitars is among the most affecting things she’s done, and closer “Ashes By Now” (both penned by Rodney Crowell) is almost apocalyptic.

But between them sits a number of uptempo numbers–some of them deftly executed “(How High the Moon,” which I know from Les Paul; “Mr. Sandman,” featuring Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt; “Hot Burrito #2,” by her late duet partner Gram Parsons), and some of them clumsier (CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”; Bill Payne’s “Oh Atlanta”). This makes for an uneven record that nevertheless has a few shining moments.

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