When soulmate and duet partner Gram Parsons died in September 1973, Harris appointed herself keeper of the flame, vowing to build on the momentum that flooded his GP and Grievous Angel albums with such trembling beauty, albeit feeling “like my life had just been whacked off”. With Parsons’ Hollywood manager Eddie Tickner scoring her a Warners deal, she gingerly corralled Gram’s studio hire into the Hot Band (then fast becoming country’s own Wrecking Crew), admitting she was awestruck by their abilities. Her salvation, of course, was THAT voice. A crystal blade flashing in the sun.
A folkie at heart?her early heroes were Baez and Judy Collins; she’d even made a misshapen 1969 LP, Gliding Bird?she came untainted by Nashville country code, blessed with an outsider’s feel for words, tone and phrasing. With 1975’s elegant-pure Pieces Of The Sky, she seemed like a cut-glass decanter in a roomful of chipped tumblers. For the most part, it’s sedate, immaculately groomed country, though for every heartsick diamond (self-penned Gram paean “Boulder To Birmingham”) there’s an underlying sense of dislocation from her covered material, admiring a song’s skin rather than slipping inside it. Elite Hotel (1976)?her first Grammy-winner?was less starchy, proving she’d absorbed the passionate economy of traditional country music while allowing herself to bleed into the bones of the love-torn “Together Again” and “Satan’s Jewel Crown”. With ace guitarist Albert Lee and Emmylou’s own prot