Review: Trio minus one for 'Tucson Sessions'
September 8, 1999
By Mary Jo DiLonardo
Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris
(CNN) -- Long before Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt teamed up with Dolly Parton for their two "Trio" albums (1987 and 1999), these two longtime friends had wanted to record together as a duo.
The pair finally joined musical forces last year in Arizona, for a 10-month collaboration resulting in "Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions."
The album is an interesting collection of songs written by a diverse group of writers and performers including Bruce Springsteen, Jackson Browne, Patty Griffin and Sinead O'Connor.
Unlike the Trio projects, which are country- and folk-flavored, this release has bypassed country for more of a light-rock feel. It's a kind of thinking person's pop music.
The disc opens with "Loving the Highway Man," a piece more reminiscent of a haunting number from a stage musical than part of a pop album.
From there, the album spins all over the map. Harris conjures up the ghosts of Hank Williams and Bill Monroe in "Raise the Dead," recalling Williams' words that he'd "never get out of this world alive." Ronstadt returns with an effortless rendition of Browne's low-key "For a Dancer."
There are some interesting pieces including the title track, Roseanne Cash's "Western Wall" and the first single -- written by Harris and Jill Cunniff of Luscious Jackson -- called "Sweet Spot." Neil Young is a guest on vocals and harmonica on the final cut, Springsteen's "Across the Border."
Some of the numbers aren't so mainstream, like Leonard Cohen's "Sisters of Mercy," presented here with interesting but somewhat bizarre instrumentation.
Harris and Ronstadt exchange lead vocals from song to song or verse by verse, usually joining on lovely harmonies. The combination of Ronstadt's creamy sounds with Harris' soulful textures results in quite an emotional blend.
The choice of recording location apparently was Ronstadt's -- she lives in Tucson. For the project, a room in the historic Arizona Inn was converted into a recording studio.
Recently, VH1 placed Ronstadt at No. 21 and Harris at No. 22 in the cable music network's listing of the greatest women singers of the century. Between them, they have 16 Grammy awards, more than 150 singles that made the charts, and more than 50 albums.
Ronstadt, Harris scale 'Western Wall'
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