Emmylou Harris, Silver-Haired Queen of the Rodeo; She's Setting a Path for New Generation of Singers

By Bull, Roger | The Florida Times Union, June 20, 2008 | Go to article overview

Emmylou Harris, Silver-Haired Queen of the Rodeo; She's Setting a Path for New Generation of Singers


Bull, Roger, The Florida Times Union


Byline: ROGER BULL

Emmylou Harris was just one of those people who was too perfect to be true. The voice was otherworldly beautiful while still sounding somehow down to earth and real.

And she was gorgeous.

She first arrived singing with Gram Parsons, as he led the way for rockers traveling back into old country and turning it into something else entirely. Another rediscovering of America's roots, doing alt-country before it had a name.

Parsons left the scene far too early, and Harris went on to put her silver soprano to country classics from Hank Williams and Kitty Wells as well as songs from new guard of Townes Van Zandt and Rodney Crowell. While never being quite in the middle of country, rock or folk, she's won a dozen Grammys and a bunch of other awards.

She's 61 years old now and has become godmother of a whole new scene, the silver-haired queen of the rodeo.

Her latest album, All I Intended to Be, came out a week and a half ago, and she's hasn't lost much over the years. She'll be at the Florida Theatre on Thursday and spoke to us recently from Nashville.

When you started, were you trying to do something different or just trying to do country?

I was really just trying to learn how to play and perform country music. I became a convert to country through Gram. When he died, it left me high and dry. I was passionate, but I didn't know all the rules. I didn't have a traditional country voice, more of a folk voice. But your style is a product of your limitations.

When people think about your voice, I don't think "limitations" is the word that immediately comes to mind.

Well, I tried to copy everything that Dolly Parton did, but obviously there are certain aspects of her voice that I can't copy.

And now you're in the Country Music Hall Fame, but you never seemed that mainstream.

I'm still kind of delighting over that. But I always felt like I was out in left field, but I think there are other people out there, like Gram. …

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