Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions

Emmylou Harris / Linda Ronstadt

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Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions Review

by Theresa E. LaVeck

Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris have frequently collaborated over the course of their long careers. Their voices are made for each other in a yin-yang meeting of Ronstandt's rich velvet alto and Harris' songbird-sweet soprano. The Tucson Sessions takes their collaborations to new heights. A collection of covers and originals tracing various paths of love and loss, the performances seem to have breathed in the desert where they were recorded. Arrangements airy as the space between desert and sky are grounded by gritty guitars, splashed with color from folk instruments and filled with glorious harmonies. Well known singer/songwriters are covered -- Patty Griffin, Andy Prieboy, Rosanne Cash, Leonard Cohen, and Bruce Springsteen. Traditional presentations of Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy" and Springsteen's "Across the Border" take on new dimensions as sung by women. The spare arrangement and delicate harmonies lend a wonderful wistfulness to Cash's "Western Wall." A surprising cover choice with beautiful results is Sinead O'Connor's "This Is to Mother You." The album's best track, "1917," was written by folk singer David Olney. It's impossible to imagine anyone else singing this haunting tale of soldiers and women in WWI. Fragile and breathtaking, Harris' voice is buoyed by the angelic harmonies of Ronstadt and Kate and Anna McGarrigle. Harris also contributes, along with some collaborators, three tracks to the album, notably the spirited "Raise the Dead."

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