Emmylou Harris has had one of the most enduring musical careers of any solo artist to emerge in the 1970s. She began her career recording with Gram Parsons (his debut, G.P., in 1972 and Grievous Angel in 1973), and she remains vital, prolific, and stylistically resilient. Her music has been compiled many times through the years, and she figures prominently on two Gram Parsons boxed sets, Sacred Hearts and Fallen Angels: The Gram Parsons Anthology (2001) and The Complete Reprise Sessions (2006). But this five-disc box, which includes a generous number of rarities and a bonus DVD, is the definitive career retrospective.
What separates this set from so many other artists’ retrospectives is the range of styles she covers and the fact that many of her recordings were successful collaborations that were conceived for all the right reasons. Opener “Clocks,” a previously unreleased outtake from 1968’s Gliding Bird, her unofficial solo debut, shows us how far back her solo career goes. Most of the rest of the first disc contains music from her early solo career, which officially began in 1975 with the gorgeous Pieces of the Sky. Those early songs showed her to be an unsurpassed interpreter of music with a folk base, a country tinge and a rock ’n’ roll heart.
The second disc quickly moves through the decades. It features tracks from Wrecking Ball, Harris’s Daniel Lanois-produced breakthrough release from 1995, which redefined her sound and persona after years of being one of the most honored and respected country artists around.
Discs three and four are filled with unreleased songs from soundtracks, tribute albums, and various collaborations, including many from her various recordings with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton. Disc four also brings Harris’s musical story up to date with more recent tracks she recorded with Patti Griffin and Mark Knopfler.
The bonus DVD includes nine live performances with her group the Hot Band, her later band Spyboy and Elvis Costello. This box is a testament to a great talent who has never compromised herself or her work and who is as relevant now as at any time in her career.