Personal journeys in powerful songs

Published January 1, 2004

Emmylou Harris:

Stumble Into Grace

The evolution of Emmylou Harris is really remarkable. She was already a famed star in a 30-year career by virtue of her unique, angelic voice and her equally unique way of crafting a vocal styling to match a melody, but she did not write her own material. Then, a whole new generation discovered her with the brilliant albums Wrecking Ball (1995), Spyboy (1998), and Red Dirt Girl (2000). Stylistically, the atmospheric new disc Stumble Into Grace is cut from the same cloth as these more recent efforts. What is fascinating, though, is that Harris has found her voice as a songwriter at age 57. The lyrics are all about the journeys of life, the yearning for deeper meaning, the searching of prayer ? in short, the process of one whose goal is to stumble into grace.

Rodney Crowell:

Fate’s Right Hand

His career has run for more than 30 years, but Rodney Crowell is not a household name. If he is known, it is as an album producer; he was behind the definitive work of his ex-wife Roseanne Cash in the 1980s. However, Crowell is a strong musician and songwriter in his own right. His new album Fate’s Right Hand is an appropriate follow-up to the 2001 song cycle The Houston Kid which saw a 50-something man ruminate on his childhood. This time around, Crowell is in the here and now, looking back with thankfulness and looking forward with optimism and a healthy dose of realism. Since he has a way with a hook, the melodies stick, and there is no reason why hits cannot result in both country and AOR markets. His appealing tenor, one that will remind Canadian listeners of our own Murray McLauchlan, is the icing.

Dave Matthews:

Some Devil

While it is grossly unfair and inaccurate to suggest that the Dave Matthews Band is a one-man unit, there is no doubt that the pop-worldbeat jammers’ most visible member is their vocalist / songwriter / guitarist. However, Matthews’ new solo effort Some Devil is a different, albeit related, kettle of fish. This album is Matthews at his most introspective and stripped down, and the album is both personal and probing. Just check out the lead single Gravedigger, and then read the inner jacket notes if you want further proof. Matthews’ signature sound remains, but this time around it is augmented by everyone from long-time collaborator Tim Reynolds and Phish guitar man Trey Anastasio to session stars like Tony Hill and Brady Blade.


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