Grand dame of country music Emmylou Harris has been talking about her new album Hard Bargain, including songs dedicated to former singing partner Gram Parsons and her late friend, Kate McGarrigle.
In an interview with Spinner, the 64-year-old spoke of the song called Darlin’ Kate dedicated to Canadian folk singer McGarrigle, who died in January 2010, saying, “I didn’t set out to write it. I was fresh off experiencing Kate’s passing and her funeral, and I was just dealing with her absence. I was in a writing mode, when I picked up the guitar, the opening line just fell out. It’s really just a farewell letter. We all miss her and we grieve in our own way.”
Harris also paid tribute to Parsons, with whom she famously sang harmonies on his two solo album GP and Grievous Angel. The new song, The Road, tells the story of her intense relationship with the tragic star, saying, “I’ve been open about my time with Gram all these years, and it’s not like it’s a secret how important he was to me. This was just a retelling of a story I’ve probably told a million times…
“I thought he was the greatest thing since sliced bread. He was turning me on to all this music, and we were singing harmony; I loved his singing voice. I thought we were going to go on and make all these records together – when you are that young you never think of anyone dying.
“He was ahead of his time. He left us a very intense but small body of work, and there are a lot of people who say they’re influenced by Gram. It’s almost like his influence is more prevalent now, like he skipped a generation. I think people needed a bit of distance to really see it.”
Hard Bargain features 11 original songs and a cover of a Ron Sexsmith song for the album’s title track. Of Canadian Sexsmith she says, “I don’t know Ron very well, I have met him only a few times, but I am a fan of his music. Just about every singer-songwriter that you meet thinks Ron has hung the moon.”
Hard Bargain comes out on April 29 in Australia.