The Unique Music Style of Emmylou Harris

Filed under: Emmylou Harris - 15 May 2012  | Spread the word !

Emmylou Harris is an American singer-songwriter and musician, who has released many chart topping albums and singles over the course of her career and has won 12 Grammys and numerous other awards. In addition to her work as a solo artist and bandleader, both as an interpreter of other composers’ work and as a single songwriter, she is a sought after backing vocalist and duet partner working with numerous artists including Dolly Parton, Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan and Neil Young. She has spent most of her 25 year career recording other people’s music, occasionally placing a song of her own on an album. But for her Red Dirt Girl she decided to simply write an entire album in 2000. She manged to write 12 songs that she would later perform them live at Joe’s Pub in New York. Although she was very nervous, she managed to pull it off and her songs were a success.

The songs say enough on their own, so there was no need for introduction. After years at the intersection of traditionalist country, country rock and folk rock, she remade her music on her 1995 album Wrecking Ball. She then worked with producer and songwriter Daniel Lanois, moved her slender, reedy voice into a realm of echoing guitars and muffled drums. Where she would once sung mostly about love, she took up biblical language to sing about pilgrimages of heart and spirit. Her melodies are now rooted in hymns, fiddle tunes and the rock ribbed symmetry of old time country songwriting, particularly that of the Carter family. The songs of the Carters are grounded in an unswerving faith and a willingness to face inevitable loss and death. She carries this simplicity into less certain times when  sorrow is guaranteed but redemption is not. Her songs are about desperate love, a lost child, an old man’s death and a friends’s shattered dreams, with lyrics that surely sway between personal detail and parable.

The music of Emmylou Harris is very unique and eclectic. In order to vary the mood, she has a few mountain gospel songs, with vocal harmony from the band, and uptempo songs like Rodney Crowell’s I Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This. Her music has also got undercurrents of country shuffles and slow rolling soul music. IN her songs about lost and lonely journeys Ms. Harris has managed to find herself. She is certainly one amazing artist who knows how to combine all kinds of music genres to create something really special.