Emmylou Harris was initially a folkie (her early heroes were Joan Baez and Judy Collins) but became renowned as country music’s First Lady.
Harris’s career was rescued by ex-Byrd Gram Parsons who heard her in 1972 and proclaimed himself “knocked out” by her voice. Recruited to sing harmony on his GP and Grievous Angel albums she brought both melodic beauty and heartfelt emotion.
When Parsons died in September 1973, Harris appointed herself keeper of the flame and vowed to build on the momentum that flooded those two albums with such trembling beauty.
With the help of Parsons’ manager, Eddie Tickner, she took his band into a large rented house in Beverly Hills and recorded Pieces Of The Sky (1975) with a mobile studio.
Her 1976 album, Elite Hotel, became her first Grammy-winner and proved she had absorbed the passionate economy of traditional country music.
She was joined by ace guitarist Albert Lee on Luxury Liner (1977), which found her captivating voice even more expressive, sad-sweet with the subtlest ache, drawing out vowels as if blowing glass.
Quarter Moon In A Ten-Cent Town (1978) is arguably her closest assimilation of Gram‘s country/soul idyll, with the band ripping into Two More Bottles Of Wine and I Ain’t Living Long Like This while Harris threads folk with a pedal-steel pulse on My Songbird and draws goose pimples on her duet with Willie Nelson, One Paper Kid.
When Warners tried to nudge her towards the pop spectrum she responded with her first pure country record, Blue Kentucky Girl (1979).