Emmylou Harris – “All I Intended to Be”

Emmylou Harris

Since it’s no big secret that I’m a die-hard Emmylou fan, I’ve had to give her latest album, All I Intended to Be some time and a few good spins through the CD player to make sure that the music didn’t get lost in the “it’s her first real album in almost forever-and-a-half and she’s Emmylou so therefore it’s amazing” feelings.

That said, it’s still a pretty darned good album and only “country” in the most broad definition of the genre.

My biggest problem is that it is a touch slow. I wish that there was something a little more upbeat to balance out the sound. Something like Jupiter Rising or Little Bird or even Deeper Well would help the slow songs “pop” instead of blurring into each other, especially during those crucial first few listens..

There are some covers and some originals. While I love that the covers are mixed (Tracy Chapman, Billy Joe Shaver, Patty Griffin, and Merle Haggard) I don’t love the fact that some, especially Patty’s Moon Song, are a bit too close to the originals. It’s a little like trying to fix something that’s not broken by adding a lot of clutter in the form of mandolin and accordion. And no, I’m not just bitter that Patty’s not on the album.

Luckily Old Five and Dimers Like Me (from which the album is named from) and All That You Have Is Your Soul don’t have the copy-cat syndrome to quite the extent.

Other songs like Hold On, written by Jude Johnstone (who’s written for people like Stevie Nicks as well) and Broken Man’s Lament, by Mark Germino (not Emmy as the liner notes say) get the classic Emmylou treatment with help from friends like Karen Brooks, Glen Worf, Buddy Miller, Glen D. Hardin and producer/ex-husband Brian Ahern.

The songs that stand out most are the ones she penned either by herself or with help from the McGarrigle sisters, Kate and Anna.

Gold is one of those “I did everything I could but it still wasn’t good enough” songs and with Dolly Parton and Vince Gill on harmony it really does sound like gold spun onto the record.

How Could She Sing The Wildwood Flower is to A.P. and Sara Carter what Strong Hand on Stumble into Grace is to Johnny and June Cash. A song of love and music and loss. If the only Carter you can think of is Maybelle or you’re a little rusty on your Carter Family history a quick refresher helps the song make sense.

The Carter Family was A.P. Carter, Sara (who was married to A.P. until they were divorced and she married his first cousin), and Maybelle (Sara’s cousin that married A.P.’s cousin, Ezra, and would go on to be known as ‘Mother Maybelle’ and be mother of June, Helen and Anita.) They’re among the pioneers of commercial country and folk music and have inspired just about every musician that’s set a foot within 100 yards of the Opry. At any rate, one of their better known tunes is the parlor song Wildwood Flower which, not surprisingly, is featured in the melody of Emmy’s song.

Sailing Round the Room is what Emmy correctly identifies as an “agnostic spiritual.” There’s no mentions of Heaven, a God, Judgment Days or anything else remotely biblical but the idea of death and being free from Earth’s chains is intact.

Listen to:
Beyond the Great Divide
All That You Have Is Your Soul
Sailing Round the Room

Download on iTunes

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