Har­ris’s Hard Bar­gain

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE 'N' LOUD -

AMUST-SEE for coun­try mu­sic fans – and mu­sic fans in gen­eral – Em­my­lou Har­ris’s songs are the stuff of life.

Har­ris is on the Coast to per­form songs from her lat­est al­bum, Hard Bar­gain, at her only Queens­land show, at Jupiters Ho­tel & Casino to­mor­row night.

In some ways, the al­bum is sym­bolic of her two pas­sions – mu­sic and her an­i­mal res­cue work. Har­ris’s prop­erty in Nashville, Ten­nessee, is home to Bon­a­parte’s Re­treat, the at-risk dog res­cue project she started in 2004.

One of the 11 new songs Har­ris penned for Hard Bar­gain is Big Black Dog. The song is about Bella, a dog with ‘‘a lit­tle too much grey around the muz­zle’’ that she adopted.

Har­ris penned the tune, and the other songs on her al­bum, in her writ­ing room at home.

‘‘For some rea­son I felt very com­fort­able in here, like a lit­tle nest or some­thing up in the trees, you know?’’ she says.

‘‘I just said, ‘Well, I need to try to write’, so I just locked my­self away like the char­ac­ter in Rumpel­stilt­skin: ‘Don’t come out of there un­til you spin all that straw into gold!’ ‘‘So I got a big bunch of straw.’’ Har­ris emerged from the room hav­ing taken some­thing of an emo­tional jour­ney. She vis­its two of her great­est in­flu­ences, Gram Par­sons and the late Kate McGarrigle, pon­ders dif­fi­cult ques­tions – like stolen youth, death, the quick pas­sage of time, the af­ter­math of Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina in New Orleans – and does it in a sub­tle, stripped-down way that’s sim­ple yet still pow­er­ful.

The 65-year-old played the songs for some­timecol­lab­o­ra­tor Jay Joyce and asked him to pro­duce the al­bum. He brought in Giles Reaves and the three joined an en­gi­neer and Joyce’s sweater­chomp­ing dog, Clarence, in Joyce’s stu­dio to lay down sim­ple ver­sions of the songs.

Har­ris’s col­lab­o­ra­tors of­ten come away mes­merised af­ter work­ing with her and Joyce def­i­nitely ex­pe­ri­enced the magic she’s spun dur­ing her 40-year ca­reer.

‘‘She’s just got a real wis­dom about her,’’ Joyce says.

‘‘You just kind of for­get you’re mak­ing a record. You’re just hav­ing fun play­ing mu­sic. She’s kind of like one of the peo­ple in the band. She comes from that sort of place.’’

She got that from her time with Par­sons, a deep influence with whom she worked for a short time be­fore his death in 1973. It was Par­sons who showed her the beauty of tra­di­tional coun­try mu­sic.

She opens the al­bum with The Road, a nos­tal­gic re­mem­brance of Par­sons.

It is an ex­pan­sive look at their re­la­tion­ship, one that sent 12-time Grammy win­ner Har­ris on the way to iconic sta­tus.

‘‘It was like my ears opened up for the first time and I heard the con­nec­tion be­tween my ear and my heart. I crossed a line,’’ Har­ris says.

‘‘It changed the way I heard mu­sic. It it was like ground zero for me.’’

Em­my­lou Har­ris and Her Dirt Red Boys play Jupiters Ho­tel & Casino to­mor­row at 7.30pm.

Em­my­lou Har­ris

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