Emmylou Harris – Cowgirl’s Prayer Revisited
This morning, my commute to work in Washington, D.C. was especially brutal with train delays due to track problems and bus delays due to the rain. A local news agency asked followers what they’d be doing to remain calm and patient.
I could think of no other way to reply than to simply state “Listen to Emmylou Harris,” and listen to Emmylou Harris I did. Each time I plug in and tune out to Emmylou it feels as if I’m visiting a dear old friend. This particular morning was the perfect time to rekindle that friendship.
The first song of hers I remember hearing with any regularity is ‘Thanks To You’ off her 1993 album Cowgirl’s Prayer. I would hear that song almost every morning on 93.1 FM as I drove to work in Baltimore. “Goodness, is it really real,” Emmylou would sing, “It would take a baby child to know the way I feel. Oh my, flutter in the blue, I would take the credit but it’s thanks to you,” she’d end the chorus. I was forever hooked and this is where I’ll begin my reviews from the vault of Emmylou Harris.
Cowgirls Prayer opens with ‘A Ways To Go’ and its plucky guitar gives the sense of being atop a horse out on the range, and it ends with Leonard Cohen’s ‘Ballad of a Runaway Horse’; perfect bookends to the expertly-selected songs in between.
Of note are ‘High Powered Love,’ where she asks, “if you’re just looking for a good time, a notch on your gun,” and answers with “well, I ain’t the one!” “Prayer in Open D” for me showcases the breadth of Emmylou’s voice at its absolute finest. She takes a zydeco-laden romp down to Lucinda Williams’ Crescent City,’ and implores listeners to “laissez les bon temps roulez.” This is a cut, in my opinion, that never gets old.
I’ll point out another cut that took me some time to warm up to, and that’s ‘Jerusalem Tomorrow.’ It’s about a charlatan in the time of Jesus trying to help people part with their money in response to his “miraculous” healings. Emmylou narrates this song in spoken word and by the climax when the charlatan teams up with Jesus and she says, “we’re headed for Jerusalem tomorrow,” the hairs on the back of my neck are standing at attention. She’s known as a masterful interpreter of other artists’ songs and in this gem from David Olney, Emmylou speaks just as masterfully here as she sings elsewhere.
Go ahead and listen to Cowgirl’s Prayer and hit repeat, and then repeat again. I sure have done the same many times over.
Author’s Note: Content originally posted on Alternate Root on January 23, 2013.