Thursday, November 5, 2015


Many many years ago, surely just following the dawn of all time, Scott and I were driving one night and heading...somewhere. Who knows? We were both in college at the time and home on some break or another.

Scott popped in a cassette tape (I told you this was before the dawn of time) and on came Buddy Holly, singing and playing (I think I remember) "Everyday."

Anyway, Scott nearly yelled this to me, with the utmost of urgency:

"Do you have any idea how great he was? Any idea?"

I did. I still do.

Anyway. Greatness. It's a funny thing (or so I hear). Because even though you know it's there, sometimes we still have to be reminded. I music, we're reminded by a friend practically screaming to us to sit up and take notice of how great something is. Or maybe we get reminded by reading a review, or by reading about the artist in question.

Of course, usually, we just need to listen to be reminded of greatness.

Like here.

Emmylou Harris is not one of the greatest female singers/musicians to ever live; she is one of the greatest singer/musicians to ever live, period.

And I don't think she's ever been better than this (relatively) late career track (it comes from her spectacular Red Dirt Girl album in 2000). Listen to what is at work here. To Emmylou's voice, sad and breathy and distant, aided by some subtle orchestration and a couple of simple chords and not much else, Listen to the way she so lovingly sings his name, "Michelangelo," at the conclusion of every verse, extending it out just a nanosecond longer for emphasis. Listen to those haunted, mournful wails she offers following each bridge. As if what she is seeing and what she is feeling is simply too beautiful to be described in words.

Borrowing melodically somewhat from Leonard Cohen's "Suzanne, " "Michelangelo" sweeps us into a series of Emmylou's dreams, where the grand master visits her in a variety of different shapes and forms, all of which lead to questions from her about what they both have seen, heard and touched. This is a love letter from one great artist to another, delivered in hushed, melancholy tones that never once ceases to be stunning.

Did you suffer at the end, would there be no on to remember?
Did you banish all the old ghosts with the terms of your surrender?
And could you hear me calling out your name?
Well I guess that I will never know...

Last night I dreamed about you,
I dreamed that you were weeping.
And the dreams poured down like diamonds
For a love beyond all keeping.
And you caught them one by one,
In a million silk bandannas I gave you long ago...

Greatness abounds with Emmylous Harris, and all we need to be reminded of this is to simply listen to her at her best. With a truckful of musical talent, a voice that descended from heaven and a gift for tasteful, tactful understatement that few artists have ever had, Emmylou has it all. "Michelangelo" shows why.

Long may she reign.

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