*** Emmylou Harris
RED DIRT GIRL
milestone 1995 album Wrecking Ball refashioned the one-time heroine of
white-glove bluegrass into alternative country's answer to Kate Bush -- a
gifted elder stateswoman with a pristine voice. Since then, she's discovered
drum machines and Luscious Jackson, and both show up on Red Dirt Girl,
her first studio album since Wrecking Ball. An amalgam of country, folk,
and pop, Red Dirt Girl, like Harris's famous voice, is airy and grave.
Harris has always had a special knack for the duet, and here she enlists Dave
Matthews (sounding oddly like Roger Whittaker), Patti Scialfa, Bruce
Springsteen, and former Luscious Jackson member Jill Cunniff as vocal partners
on a series of uniformly lovely, loping, mid-tempo ballads. The only real
surprise is that Harris, who's better known as an interpreter of other artists'
work than as a songwriter in her own right, has a writing credit on every track
except "One Big Love," a radiant and peppy cover of a Patty Griffin tune that
provides a rare moment of levity. Other than that, Red Dirt Girl is a
sturdy and fairly conventional alterna-folk recording. And though there's
nothing here as compelling as the best moments of Wrecking Ball, there's
also very little to complain about.
-- Allison Stewart
(Emmylou Harris performs with Patty Griffin on Tuesday October 17 at Berklee
Performance Center. Call 931-2000.)