Various Artists

Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons

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Although he's not as well known outside music circles as Jimi Hendrix or Kurt Cobain, the early death of Gram Parsons was arguably just as great a loss. Parsons' country-rock hybrid became a touchstone for artists from the Rolling Stones to Elvis Costello to the '90s "alternative country" giants Uncle Tupelo and the Jayhawks. In addition to his importance as a songwriter, Parsons gave Emmylou Harris her big break. Now, Harris and co-executive producer Paul Kremen have handpicked an all-star list of artists, including Costello as well as Tupelo and Jayhawks descendants Wilco and the Rolling Creekdippers, for Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons. The songs, culled from Parsons' early days with the Byrds through his posthumously released solo album, Grievous Angel, are uniformly excellent, or better. The best covers, like Lucinda Williams and David Crosby's "Return of the Grievous Angel" and the Rolling Creekdippers' "In My Hour of Darkness," feature the soaring, intertwined harmonies Parsons and Harris turned into magic on the originals. Harris herself joins the Pretenders ("She"), Beck ("Sin City"), and Sheryl Crow ("Juanita") for songs Parsons did before he began recording with her. The resulting duets evoke why the original Grievous Angel, featuring Harris, was so stunning.

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