The voice that changed it all
By Teppei, Contributor
From that moment on, my never-ending journey through country music started, reshaping pretty much all that I am
I still remember quite clearly the day I listened to Emmylou Harris’ voice for the first time. In early 2005, my favorite band Bright Eyes had recently released a new album entitled I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning. My friend and bandmate had been kind enough to download the albums or songs that I would request weekly and hand me a burnt cd after band rehearsal. I was completely unaware of the sudden turn my musical journey was about to take thanks to Harris’ background vocals on three of the album’s songs.
Despite music being yet another male dominated industry, I was not completely unfamiliar with female singers. My parents would play ABBA, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Tracy Chapman, Louise Tucker, amongst others while I was growing up. Nevertheless, none of those artist’s voices had ever strummed a chord as deep as Harris’ did.
The song “Land Locked Blues,”starts with a very bare, stripped sound consisting of just an acoustic guitar and Conor Oberst’s (Bright Eyes’lead singer) voice for the first two verses. Harris’ crystal-like timbre and perfectly crafted and polished harmonies link with Oberst’s raw singing style on the third verse, accompanying him until the end. Listening to Oberst’s usual crude lyrics, sugar-coated by Emmylou’s voice completely rattled me and redefined the way I perceived music. It was as if I had boarded a train that night to her home state of Alabama.
I immediately felt that I needed to listen to more of her music, so I looked up on Soulseek (an old P2P file-sharing software) and left my computer on all night downloading two of her albums: Elite Hotel and Luxury Liner.
As soon as I woke up the morning after, I ran to my computer and found those new mp3 files. The first song I listened to was “Amarillo,” the first song off her album released in 1975. Instantly, this false nostalgia permeated my insides. As cheesy as it may sound, I swear I could even smell the fresh coffee and wood mixed with the stench of manure of a country morning all from within my room in a four-million-person metropolis. From that moment on, my never-ending journey through country music started, reshaping pretty much all that I am.
You know that saying “You are what you eat”? Well, I believe you are what you listen to. For over a decade, I have been listening to Emmylou Harris at least once a day (even on statutory holidays and weekends). I will be forever thankful to Harris for igniting this unceasing pursuit of the female voices that country music has to offer. I have fallen in love with many other country singers, with voices equally as beautiful and powerful, such as Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Lucinda Williams, Gillian Welch, to mention a few, but Harris will always have that special place in my heart for being my first country love.