Emmylou Harris Red Dirt Girl

It seemed as if Harris herself was giving up trying to match the brilliance of her last studio release, 1995's Wrecking Ball, but surprisingly, the five year wait only makes Red Dirt Girl's impact that much stronger. Even more surprisingly, whereas Wrecking Ball was largely comprised of covers, Red Dirt Girl is largely Harris originals, a talent she has never fully explored in her career. From the gorgeous opener, "The Pearl," we hear Harris the poet, weaving a tapestry of metaphors and Biblical allusions as if all her work with people like Gram Parsons, Bob Dylan and Daniel Lanois has somehow finally gelled inside her. The title track in particular has all the makings of an American classic, with its plot hinging on Harris's memories of life in rural Alabama. Later, "My Baby Needs A Shepherd" is an adoption tale on par with Joni Mitchell's "Little Green," and "Boy From Tupelo" is both a great love song and another of Harris's touching tributes to her original mentor, Parsons: "The sweetheart of your rodeo/A Juliet to your Romeo." Sound-wise, Wrecking Ball fans will be pleased to hear Malcolm Burn continuing the Lanois tradition, while backing from Buddy Miller, Daryl Johnson and Ethan Johns is perfectly moody as well. Red Dirt Girl is a remarkable achievement in every sense. (Nonesuch)