Smooth as glass, crystalline clear, full of emotion, and flavoured with a nice tinge of vulnerability is how you can describe the wondrous voice of Emmylou Harris. Fans have been waiting anxiously in the three years since her last album to hear it again. This spring she has released a new album that shows she is still at the top of her game.
For some musicians recording albums organically is the best way. Hard Bargain was recorded in around a month without much muss or fuss postproduction. With only two other musicians besides herself Emmylou able to create such a full sound that you usually only gain from heartbreaking requiems.
Speaking of heartbreaking, the album is filled with what can only be described as melancholic (at best) or poignant. I dare anyone to not be moved by her heartfelt tribute to her close friend Kate McGarrigle, who died last year after a long battle with cancer. Dear Kate is one of the best songs ever written by Emmylou. The feelings are all deep, but never venture into self-indulgence or sappiness.
Blues, country and rock are the predominant styles of her songs on Hard Bargain. This is a woman who follows her heart and gut and not her pocketbook. She is not making music to earn millions of dollars and gain a ton of followers on Twitter. Emmylou is well aware that she has to make music that people enjoy listening to or she won’t have anyone to play for, but she does not cater to trends. And 40 years and 25 albums into a career that has seen her win multiple Grammy Awards, who is going to argue with her?