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2023 Albums Thing 150 - Emmylou Harris “Luxury Liner”

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Today we reach album #150 in this “little” project I started back in January, quite the milestone. It’s been good for me writing about these records and in some cases discovering corners of and things about them that are new even to me and I hope some of you out there are still following along and occasionally enjoying these ramblings.

“Luxury Liner” is Emmylou’s 4th solo album and 2nd successive (US Country) #1.  Live and in the studio she had gathered around her a bunch of musicians now known as the Hot Band, chief among them being James Burton from Elvis Presley’s band and who had also played on Gram Parsons records. Around 1976 Burton returned to Elvis’ live band and was replaced in the Hot Band by British guitarist virtuoso Albert Lee (check out his song “Country Boy”) who makes his first appearance on an Emmylou album here.

Makeup wise things remain the same. A couple of songs written with Rodney Crowell, some standards by Chuck Berry and the Louvin Brothers, no Beatles this time but two more of Gram Parson’s songs and, importantly, the very first cover of Townes van Zandt’s “Pancho And Lefty”.

Townes van Zandt was a singer and songwriter who was effectively ignored during his lifetime but who, in later years, has come to be hailed as a master of American songwriting. He lived for many years in a shack with no electricity or telephone. He had his addictions to drink and drugs and was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. His health problems from his addictions were responsible for his death in 1997. “Pancho And Lefty”, which Van Zandt recorded originally for his 1972 album “The Late Great Townes Van Zandt”, has become his best known song as, after this first cover by Emmylou, it’s been covered by anybody who is anybody in Country music and beyond. There are versions by Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard, Roseanne Cash, Jason Isbell, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan and even Frank Turner…the list is seemingly endless. It’s a wonderful song, the tale of 2 “cowboy” drifters, Pancho (spelt Poncho on TvZ’s original version) and Lefty, one of whom “met his match you know, On the deserts down in Mexico”, the other who immediately “split for Ohio”. Have a listen below, Emmylou delivers it beautifully.

I only usually include one video link on these things but today I’ve left you three. “Pancho And Lefty” from this album, a live version from someot other Euro music show with Emmylou and the Hot Band (Rodney Crowell on acoustic and Albert Lee on Electric guitar) and last a lovely interview with Townes himself about the song. Sorry if it’s overload but it’s such an important song I think it deserves to be celebrated.

Back to the album…my other main points of interest here are the two Gram Parsons songs. “Luxury Liner” dates back to Gram’s time in the late 60’s, pre-Byrds, with the International Submarine Band. That band also featured Chris Etheridge who turned up in the Flying Burrito Brothers later on. The song is a steamroller Country hoedown with an impossibly fast picked solo by (I’m pretty sure) Albert Lee.

The second of Gram’s songs is the gorgeous ballad “She”. It originally appeared on Gram’s first solo album “GP”. I’ve always thought the song was about Emmylou anyway with lyrics like “She, came from the land of the cotton” (Emmylou is from Alabama) and the more than obvious “Oh my, but she sure could sing”. It’s a thing of rare beauty.

Not much else to report. You either like Country music or you don’t (I do and I’d like to think I might help change some perceptions along the way). Onto the next one.

Pancho And Lefty - https://youtu.be/l3LQeRqTBK4

Pancho And Lefty (TopPop) - https://youtu.be/1MtvnZ2LvsM

Townes van Zandt Explains Panch And Lefty - https://youtu.be/g3bFAuuUeXU

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