Album Review: All I Intended To Be by Emmylou Harris
Very Good, Based on 4 Critics
Entertainment Weekly - 86 Based on rating A-
Emmylou Harris is best known for brilliantly reinterpreting other people’s material with her high, crystalline voice. Sure enough, All I Intended to Be, the country legend’s first album in five years features terrific, hushed versions of Patty Griffin’s ”Moon Song,” Tracy Chapman’s ”All That You Have Is Your Soul,” and Billy Joe Shaver’s ”Old Five and Dimers Like Me.” But Harris can also turn it on in the songwriting department, as she proves in ”Gold.” On this superb, epically desolate weeper, her vocals meld with the more twanging tones of guest Dolly Parton to 24-karat effect. A-DOWNLOAD THIS: Hear a preview of ”Gold” at barnesandnoble.com .
In 1995, Emmylou Harris made a decisive break with her creative past, recording the album Wrecking Ball with producer Daniel Lanois and abandoning the traditional country purity of her best-known work for lovely but spectral musical landscapes and exploring her muse as a songwriter in a way she had never attempted before. After Wrecking Ball, Harris recorded three albums in which she made the most of her new creative freedom and honed her impressive gifts as a songwriter, but All I Intended to Be, her first new release in five years, finds her reaching back toward a sound and style that recall the country and folk influences of her earlier work. But All I Intended to Be is clearly the work of an artist who is looking to the past entirely on her own terms, and with the lessons learned since 1995 clearly audible at all times.
Ditching the experimentation that’s been a hallmark of Emmylou Harris’s Nonesuch years, the country maverick returns to her tried-and-true 70s formula for All I Intended To Be. Returning to work with her ex-husband, Brian Ahearn, who produced her first 11 major label albums, Harris has assembled a top-notch support cast of Nashville pickers for a traditionally oriented session mixing a number of country classics (Merle Haggard’s Kern River and Billy Joe Shaver’s Old Five And Dimers Like Me) with a few of her own melancholic compositions dealing with loss, heartache and regret that could pass for standards. Like many backward steps, All I Intended To Be does not pay off.
Emmylou Harris goes down like fine wine, more elegant and potent with each passing year. Harris' first solo album in five years reveals the 2008 Country Music Hall of Famer lingering poignantly retrospective with longing and resolve. Reuniting with original producer Brian Ahern contributes to reflective covers of Merle Haggard's "Kern River" and Billy Joe Shaver's "Old Five and Dimers Like Me," as well as contemporary cuts like Patty Griffin's "Moon Song" and Tracy Chapman's "All That You Have Is Your Soul.