CD review: ‘Complete Trio Collection’

hmo091916trioThe Complete Trio Collection, Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt. Nowhere in the backstory notes to the The Complete Trio Collection does it say that when Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt finally found time to unify their voices in perfect harmony that lives were healed and Jesus wept. If you’ve heard even pieces of this landmark collaboration, though, you know this to be only a slight exaggeration. After all, we are talking about three singing supremes working their magic on 21 songs across two glorious albums. And now — in addition to both 1987’s Trio and 1999s Trio II — Rhino Records has collected an additional 20 songs from the ladies’ Grammy-winning sessions, some unreleased, some alternate takes of already-released Trio tunes. Among them: “Wildflowers,” Parton’s autobiographical outsider anthem split equally among the three singers, with Parton on the first verse, Harris on the second, and, finally, Ronstadt on the third (Dolly takes lead on the original, included here on the first Trio disc).

“Calling My Children Home” is transcendent, as their voices unite in splendid harmony for a rich vocal experience on this previously unreleased a cappella track, a gut-wrenching song by bluegrass band The Country Gentlemen. Top to bottom, The Complete Trio Collection is a body of staggering beauty. Ronstadt will break your heart as her voice glides through “The Blue Train.” Emmy’s breathtaking lead on “When We’re Gone, Long Gone” will lighten your load. All their voices in collective grace on the stunning “Farther Along” will have you feeling thankful that this project, despite the years it took to get these gals together, has finally seen the light of day.

— Chris Azzopardi

 

 

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Concert Notice: Lesbian Nashville crooner Steff Mahan on Thursday night at Opening Bell

Just a quick note that out singer Steff Mahan comes to town Thursday. Looks like she’s just on the road hitting up cities here and there as opposed to supporting a new release. Her last album, Never a Long Way Home, came out in 2009, but these indie artists likely find more scratch and satisfaction on the road anyway.

Her site keeps mentioning alt-country, but her sound is far more Americana and roots in the vein of Emmylou Harris or Lucinda Williams. And the intimate space of Opening Bell is likely ideal for her sound. If you’re hankering for live music with some queer flair, then head on down to the South Side.

Opening Bell, 1409 S Lamar St. 8 p.m. $10. Click here for more information.

—  Rich Lopez

REVIEW: Emmylou Harris and the Red Dirt Boys on Thursday at the Winspear

Emmylou Harris

Let me start by saying that I like Emmylou Harris, but I can’t say that I’ve followed her enough to know much from her catalog save some signature tunes. But I had to see her. I mean, it is Emmylou Harris, and while I can’t say she disappointed, she wasn’t quite what I expected.

On tour for her 2011 release Hard Bargain, Harris played a healthy set of old and new Thursday night, coming in just over the two-hour mark. With an impressive catalog of 26 albums, she wasn’t short for material. She opened the show with the new “Six White Cadillacs,” a playful tune that set a welcoming tone. Without missing a beat, she followed up with “Orphan Girl” from her 1995 landmark album Wrecking Ball. A song I liked, but this is where the unexpected part began.

“Orphan” has a middle pacing that’s not too slow and not too fast. It coasts on beautiful guitars and mid-tempo beats. Which is fine, but almost every song after it followed this same formula. Regardless of the quality of the songs, the pacing was so even-keeled that it was a couple of shades shy of boring. She did punctuate it with a couple of rousing ditties, but the first one came an hour into the show. If she had just added two or three more of those, it would have had a better flow.

—  Rich Lopez