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2023 Albums Thing 155 - Emmylou Harris “The Ballad Of Sally Rose”

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I’ve not had long to live with this one. When I started waffling about these Emmylou Harris records I didn’t own it, it had been on my wantlist for a time but I hadn’t got around to finding a copy. With all the references up to now to Gram Parsons I thought it was the right time to buy a copy so I could talk to you about it…the things I do for all y’all…

Released in 1985 and co-written with her then husband (English songwriter Paul Kennerley) “The Ballad Of Sally Rose” is a concept album. It tells the story of a young girl who has a baby at an early age. She then becomes a singer, meeting a character known as “The Singer” whose band she joins and is exposed to the road, his influence, talent and wild ways. They marry, her confidence grows as a performer and she is lured away from her husband to a solo career. By the time she realises she wants to be back with him and is returning to do just that she discovers “The Singer” has died in a car accident. A story eerily similar to that of the relationship between Emmylou Harris and Gram Parsons.

After we kick off with “The Ballad Of Sally Rose”, a nice summary of our heroine’s entry into this world, the rest of Side 1 is pretty maudlin until penultimate song “Bad News” in which our anti-hero “The Singer” dies…before we’re even halfway in.

Into Side 2 and you get the feeling that without the explanation on the inner sleeve this would be a confusing story to follow. Sally is out on tour with her “red hot band” the she’s singing about how her baby was taken by the “white line” (on the road or otherwise isn’t specified). It’s getting to feel like unsubtle references to GP are being forced into songs to support a story it was decided to tell before any songs were written and now they have to make themselves write that story in whet3 it doesn’t fit.

By the time you reach the song “The Sweetheart Of the Rodeo” it’s beginning to feel like you’re listening to “Country music by numbers”, a symptom of writing with her husband who was British perhaps ? The music doesn’t feel authentically American but someone else’s idea of what Country should be. 

“K-S-O-S” includes an instrumental snippet of “Six Days On the Road” a song that Gram performed with the Fallen Angels and the Flying Burrito Brothers, along with other Country standards that I’m sure Gram would have known and played.

All in all it’s not Emmylou’s finest moment, her voice is beautiful throughout but the songs just aren’t good enough to tell the story. Caveat is I’ve written this after listening to it once, gimme another week and all the above might change. Me and Emmylou part ways for 10 years now, we’ll pick things up again in 1995.

Long Tall Sally Rose - https://youtu.be/Tj3d2okYXKY

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