Emmylou Harris – Pieces Of The Sky – Our Shootout Winner from 2014

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Pieces Of The Sky

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A distinguished member of the Better Records Rock and Pop Hall of Fame.

This album has the real Country Sound, with plenty of top players sitting in on these sessions, musicians who know country music as well as anyone alive. The legendary guitarist for Elvis (and half the stars of Nashville), James Burton, lends a hand on Electric and Dobro. On vocals and guitar Herb Pederson, who still plays locally. (Together with Chris Hillman they put on a great show of old Country and Honky Tonk favorites. If they come to your town check them out.) Ricky Skaggs on fiddle, Billy Payne on piano, Bernie Leadon on banjo — no doubt a good time was had by all in the studio and that spirit of like-minded musicians who love this music comes through in the recording. 

The presence of the vocals here is startling — Emmylou is IN THE ROOM with you, belting out these heartfelt, emotional songs. If her voice here doesn’t give you chills, I don’t know what will!

Dynamic Vocals!

One quality we heard on this album really took us by surprise. The vocals are shockingly DYNAMIC — it’s almost as if Emmylou’s mic has no limiter on it at all. If there’s any compression on her track it is very very subtle, that’s for sure.

And this is where a cheap front end is really going to let you down. Vocal energy like this is tough to handle. You need to be on top of your game to play this record, otherwise the strain and grain that results from improper playback is going to be a bit much on some of the vocal peaks. You don’t need a test record to set up your front end; you need a challenging recording like this.

Amazingly Good Warner Brothers Sound

If you like the sound of the best Warner Brothers recordings from about the same time — think Ry Cooder’s Jazz and Rickie Lee Jones’ debut to name a couple — you’ll find much to like about the sound here. It’s incredibly detailed but not at all phony — just what you need to appreciate the sound of the various stringed instruments, including acoustic guitars, electric guitars, pedal steel, mandolins, fiddles, dobro, banjo and more.

And The Music Is Wonderful

The song that really sold us on this album is Merle Haggard’s classic Bottle Let Me Down. If that one doesn’t give you chills, somethin’ ain’t right.

And see if you can recognize the lovely Beatles tune on side two before the vocal gives it away. The chord progression is the same, but the instrumentation is so different that it’s hard to place the tune until you’re well into it. Emmylou really nails it. What a great cover. We must have heard it thirty times during our shootout and it never once failed to connect.

All in all we may not be qualified to say that this is the one country album that you must own, but it’s a darn good one!

I’ll Take This Over Alison Krauss On MoFi Any Day

The sound is INCREDIBLY rich and sweet, with little of the transistory grain (on the best copies) so common to WB albums from this era. It blows the doors off of a record like the MFSL Alison Krauss. In fact, this record is the perfect example of what’s wrong with that pressing. Listen to the quality of the voices and acoustic instruments on this album, then compare them to your Krauss MOFI. I am hoping that you will hear that there is a world of difference between the two, because there is.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Bluebird Wine 
Too Far Gone 
If I Could Only Win Your Love
Boulder to Birmingham 
Before Believing

Side Two

Bottle Let Me Down 
Sleepless Nights 
Coat of Many Colors 
For No One 
Queen of the Silver Dollar

AMG  Review

Emmylou Harris’ major-label solo debut quickly establishes the pattern that the vast majority of her subsequent work would follow: Pieces of the Sky is bravely eclectic, impeccably performed, and achingly beautiful.