Stumble Into Grace [Nonesuch]

Her generation was in motion. Although she turns 57 in April, Emmylou Harris is just as active and involved as she was back in the ‘70s. So it’s unsurprising that she would offer a comment on this new war. Stumble Into Grace was recorded in Nashville, February to June 2003, right in the middle of George W Bush’s invasion and occupation of Iraq, so the war is the music’s undercurrent. You can hear it when she sings "Little Boy Blue come blow your horn/ The crows are in the corn/ The morning sky is red and falling down/ The piper’s at the till/ He’s coming for the kill/ Luring all our children underground in Babylon" [Time In Babylon]. Iraq’s historical name is Babylon.

What’s different is the passive activism. The album’s first song Here I Am is the timelessness of hope that it springs eternal. "I am the promise never broken/ And my arms are ever open/ In this harbor calm and still/ I will wait until you come to me." Stumble Into Grace is a peaceful agitation for common sense to rule. As the word grace implies, beauty and elegance is a simple, unhurried state of mind that all can achieve.

Harris turns to old friends to make this album. She writes all the songs with the McGarrigle sisters, Jill Cuniff and Malcolm Burn. Daniel Lanois who transformed her from cowgirl to new age country is back as well with three collaborations, the best being Lost Unto This World, where he evokes his trademark otherworldly vibe. But it’s Harris’ lyrics that touch on this song: "I was tortured in the desert/ I was raped out on the plain/ I was murdered by the highway/ And my cries went up in vain/ My blood is on the mountain/ My blood is on the sand/ My blood runs in the river/ That now washes thru their hands…/ Can I get no witness this unholy tale to tell/ Was God the only one there watching? "

For the final song, Harris offers Cup Of Kindness to connect back to the album’s first song. "You hear the vandals howlin’ down your walls/ And arm yourself against the ones who want to see you fall/ Till some Holy Grail reveals the grand design/ Well it was in a cup of kindness all the time". Give grace a chance. — Michael Cheah

Note: Emmylou Harris supports the Campaign For A Landmine Free World. Go here to read more The US and $ingapore are among the countries that have not signed this treaty.

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