REVIEW

 

EMMYLOU HARRIS
Radio Broadcast 1970 [no label 1CD]

Live at WBAI, NYC, with David Bromberg.

Whenever an artist (or any other interested party) disavows an early recording, there's always a swarm of aficionados prepared to state it's one of the greatest things they ever recorded. Not, however, in the case of Emmylou Harris. Gilded Bird, the album she cut in 1969, as an wholly unknown and completely un-formed folk singer, is barely even recognizable as the marvel that Harris would become, let alone comparable.

This radio show dates from a year or so after Gilded Bird was recorded, and already, her performance is streaking away from the uncertainty that scarred the LP. Harshly edited to remove any chatter or otherwise that punctuated the songs on the original broadcast, eight numbers include a couple of Townes Van Zant numbers ("Tecumseh Valley" and "Sad Cinderella"), Doug Kershaw's "Louisiana Man" and Dorsey Dixon's "Wreck on the Highway," while Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" and Hank Williams' "I Saw The Light" both survive from her vinyl experience.

But her voice is already stronger, more confident... more Emmylou, if you like, shrugging off the country-stereotype affectations that she apparently felt were necessary in the past, and leaning towards a more personal delivery. She is still some way away from the purity and beauty that burst forth on the Gram Parsons albums, but at least you can hear her heading in that direction. - Dave Thompson

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