Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball

I’m torn. I loved this record. And I didn’t.

Let me explain.

I bought this in Taranna with Mike on our most recent annual excursion. It came highly recommended from many folks. Hell, even Robert Plant (I read it somewhere) praised the damn thing, and later made his own version with Alison Krauss (Raising Sand).

Made in 1995, I get that with this record Emmylou was probably wanting to distance herself from what was happening in country (pop?) at the time, and get her own, closer to roots sound. That’s cool.

And it really is a stunning record. Harris’ vocals are arresting, haunting and gorgeous. The songs drift along and pull you in. Tracks like Every Grain Of Sand and Sweet Old World blew me away. This is a really, really good record. It is!

You’re waiting for the ‘But…’ aren’t you. Well, here it is.

But, on some songs, it’s too much damn Lanois. He’s a one-trick pony, and he does that thing he does. So here we have Emmylou, a superlative talent in her own right, singing over some songs that could have been on a U2 or Lanois solo record.

In all fairness, it’s not a bad sound. And maybe, released when it was, it was actually influential on a lot of records released after it and that’s why it seems a bit done. And not all of the songs here are like that, to be sure, but it was enough to make me unable to shake the thought.

So I loved it, because I love Emmylou, and when she shines through it’s a glorious thing. But I also didn’t love it, because too much Lanois. Shame, that, because I wanted to rave about it unreservedly. I’m gonna give it more listens, see if it changes for me.

I still liked it, though, more than I didn’t. And that’s something.

8 thoughts on “Emmylou Harris – Wrecking Ball

  1. Vinyl Connection says:

    Lanois is certainly one of those producers who likes to add his tag to a record and as you rightly say, it’s all over this one. Still, if you are in the mood for Emmylou and haven’t OD-ed on Daniel recently, it’s a great listen.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      I am ALWAYS in the mood for some Emmylou. It was a good listen, I just couldn’t get past the whole thing. Others love it, so it’s probably just me! Haha.

      I have other Harris records here, so I can leave this one for a bit and spin those, and then maybe next time I come back I’ll not have overloaded on Lanois! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. mikeladano says:

    This was an interesting read. I guess Lanois does have a certain sheen that he applies to those he produces. I think sometimes it’s almost better to think of some albums as a collaboration. Certain albums, and certain producers, are like that. To use a Kiss example, Destroyer should have been released by “Kiss and Bob Ezrin” because he had just as much impact as the entire band. As such the album kind of sticks out like a sore thumb.

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    1. keepsmealive says:

      I believe you’ve heard me rant before about producers who make bands sound like themselves rather than how the band should sound. Lanois, Bob Rock, Mutt Lange, etc.

      This one had tracks that were clearer, and then some of them were like Lanois solo record songs with Emmylou singing.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. J. says:

    Okay. I love this album. Particularly Lanois production on it. There’s something swampy about it … and it does feel somewhat stifling, but it compliments Emmylou in so many ways. Her voice is like a light, man. A guiding light through the darkness. That’s what this album is. It’s the beauty of that voice in so much darkness.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. keepsmealive says:

      Yup, I hear you. It does sound dark like that. And I guess when I gave it the good headphones treatment, it was his production on some of those songs that actually turned me off them a bit. I still enjoyed the record, but I was too aware of the Lanois-ization and couldn’t let myself get into the songs.

      That said, there were some home-run tracks here too. I didn’t snag on all of it. When it worked, it really bloody worked. But those tracks, for me, were the straighter, cleaner tracks.

      Full agreement from me, though, that Emmylou is a goddamn beacon. What a voice.

      I dunno, maybe on future listens the rest will speak to me. I am definitely willing to give it another go!

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      1. J. says:

        That’s fair enough – I realised that comment might have been a bit “no – you better love this!”. I meant only to express my love of it!

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