Already celebrated as a discoverer and interpreter of other artists’ songs, 12-time Grammy Award winner Emmylou Harris has, in the last decade, gained admiration as much for her eloquently straightforward songwriting as for her incomparably expressive singing.
Harris formed her own group, the Angel Band, and signed with Warner Bros./Reprise Records in 1973. In Los Angeles with producer Brian Ahern, Harris recorded and released her solo major label debut, Pieces of the Sky, in 1975. Ahern and Harris were married in January 1977, and Ahern would helm all of Harris’ next 10 albums. An eclectic collection of covers of songs by artists as diverse as Merle Haggard and The Beatles, Pieces of the Sky spawned the Top 5 country hit “If I Could Only Win Your Love,” by the Louivin Brothers.
She recorded her second album, the top-selling Elite Hotel (1976), with a new backup band called the Hot Band, which included two sidemen who played with Elvis Presley. Anchored by the success of two No. 1 hits, “Together Again” (written by Buck Owens) and “Sweet Dreams” (written by Don Gibson), Elite Hotel earned Harris a Grammy Award for Best Country Female Vocal Performance and marked her breakthrough into the top ranks of country-folk performers.
Before the end of the 1970s, Harris released five more albums, including Luxury Liner (1977), Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town (1978), Profile: The Best of Emmylou Harris (1979) and Blue Kentucky Girl (1979), the last of which won her a second Grammy. Blue Kentucky Girl was Harris’ sixth straight gold album. She also sang guest vocals on Bob Dylan’s 1976 album Desire. Harris gave up touring while pregnant with her second child, Meghann, and instead recorded a hit Christmas album, Light of the Stable (1979), with a title single that featured guest vocals by Dolly Parton, Neil Young and Linda Ronstadt.
The acoustic bluegrass album Roses in the Snow (1980) also went gold, as did Evangeline (1981), a compilation of songs left off previous albums. Around that time, several key members of the Hot Band, including backup singer/songwriter Ricky Skaggs, left to begin solo careers, and Harris’ marriage to Ahern began to disintegrate. After two less successful studio albums (1981′s Cimarron and 1982′s White Shoes) and one live effort, 1982′s Last Date, Harris and Ahern separated in 1983, and she moved back to Nashville.
Here is Emmylou Harris performing “Red Dirt Girl” live in 2005!
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