All I Intended to Be
By James Calemine
All I Intended To Be counts as Emmylou Harris’ first solo album in five years. Recently inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Emmylou recorded these songs over a four-year span in Nashville. Emmylou Harris serves as a beacon of light in the music world. Discovered by Gram Parsons in the early 70s, Harris’ work throughout her career deemed her a twelve-time Grammy winner.
Emmylou wrote or co-wrote 5 of these songs. She always enjoyed covering other writers’ songs. She recently spoke about the song selection for All I Intended To Be: “I’ve always seen myself as a relentless song-finder, a singer of other people’s work whom I admire greatly, and an occasional songwriter.”
Emmylou’s voice serves as a medicinal tonic to any wounded soul. All I Intended To Be proves a laid-back collection of 13 songs. Jack Wesley Routh’s “Shores of White Sand” sounds like a modern-day cowboy song heard out on some lonesome salt flat. Jud Johnstone’s “Hold On” transmits a soothing tribute to all farming families in a voice that can calm the most feverish soul. The lush, warm instrumentation on these songs gives a continuous mood to these compositions.
Emmylou renders Patty Griffin’s “Moon Song” in a way that blurs distinction between songwriter and singer. Her cover of Mark Germino’s “Broken Man’s Lament” somehow harkens the ghost of Townes Van Zandt.
Harris penned the song “Gold”, a melancholy tune that balances between a Grand Ol’ Opry hymn and a psalm out of the Carter Family songbook. “How She Could Sing the Wildwood Flower”-a song Emmylou wrote with Kate and Anna McGarrigle—stands as a sad song about an orphan girl. Most musicians these days never even cover a song with this much soul, much less possess the capacity to write such material.
Emmylou’s own “Take That Ride” resembles a Daniel Lanois production. Billy Joe Shaver’s "Old Five and Dimers” proves one of the best songs on the album, but Emmylou’s voice still commands as the main instrument. Her ability to transform a song into gold just by her talents indicates why Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson and other luminaries commissioned Emmylou to work with them. Merle Haggard’s “Kern River” tells a story of someone who will not swim because this river claimed the life of their best friend; enduring…permanent messages burn as the cohesive thread on these songs.
“Not Enough”, another new Emmylou tune continues a somber parade in a classic mosaic presentation of songs. “Beyond the Great Divide” ends this quiet CD. All I Intend To Be writes Emmylou Harris’ name in the eternal book of soulful messengers…