Various Artists

Singin' With Emmylou, Vol. 1

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Raven, Australia's premier Americana reissue label has assembled two very interesting compilations of the work of singer Emmylou Harris. Singin' With Emmylou, Vols. 1 & 2 pick up from a lead offered on Duets, an album's worth issued in 1990 by Harris' label at the time, Reprise. But there aren't strictly duets, and much of this material is off the beaten path. Volume 1 contains 20 tracks. Some are duets, such as Harris singing with Willie Nelson on Rodney Crowell's "Angel Eyes" from the soundtrack to Honeysuckle Rose and Dan Fogelberg on "Only the Heart May Know," from his pretentiously overblown album The Innocent Age. Of course there are incomparable appearances as a backing vocalist, whether it be with Gram Parsons live from with the Fallen Angels in 1973 on "That's All It Took" or with Kathy Mattea ("What Could Have Been") and Trisha Yearwood (Harris' own "Woman Walk the Line") and Vince Gill ("Oh Carolina"). This is but a smattering of what's included here, and none of the choices are obvious. There's her appearance with the Pure Prairie League on "Just Can't Believe It," from their 1975 album Two Lane Highway, with the David Bromberg Band on "Nobody's," with Rosanne Cash on "Hometown Blues" -- the second of four Rodney Crowell tunes on this volume alone and with Steve Goodman the gorgeous "Fourteen Days." The neatest little item here is "Streets of This Town (Ode to Fernwood)" from a 1976 Mary Kay Place disc called Tonite! at the Capri Lounge, Loretta Haggers. This final item was from an offshoot of the Mary Hartman television program where Place played a country singer. This is curious, sometimes brilliant, always engaging, and a unique idea.