Album #336 – Pieces of the Sky
Pieces of the Sky is not only unique because it is considered Harris’ unofficial debut album but, also because it has a Maritime and Halifax connection. This album’s producer is none other than Halifax’s own Brian Ahern. Ahern is a Halifax boy that did good. He got his start locally as a musician and more specifically with the house band on the CBC Television show, Frank’s Bandstand. That show was hosted by the legendary Frank Cameron who is still on the air three days a week at 105.9 Seaside FM in Eastern Passage. I had the chance to work with Frank during my internship a few months ago. It was an amazing experience. Ahern also discovered Anne Murray through another CBC show called Singalong Jubilee. Both shows were produced here in Halifax, along with Don Messer’s Jubilee, in the 1960’s. All three shows aired nationally and were widely viewed. Because of his discovery, Ahern ended up producing Anne Murray’s first few albums. Then, he met Emmylou and the two eventually married, 36 years ago this month, here in Halifax. The two eventually went their separate ways but, Ahern still produced albums for Harris. The most recent being 2008’s All I Intended to Be. Pieces of the Sky can be best described musically as an eclectic country palate with everything from ballads to toe tappers. The repertoire is also varied. Just like Anne Murray’s first few albums, Ahern and Harris chose a wide variety of songs. Harris only co-wrote one song on this album (the classic, Boulder to Birmingham). The rest are all covers including For No One (originally done by The Beatles), The Bottle Let Me Down (originally done by Merle Haggard) and Dolly Parton’s Coat of Many Colors. The arrangements are spectacular. Ahern’s production gives a nice feel complete with string arrangements on several tracks. I really enjoyed Harris’ versions of these songs. Her voice is amazing and it is unique among country artists. Harris does not sing with a twang. Instead, her voice is sweet and unmistakable. This is why Emmylou Harris is one of my favourite country artists. Another unique fact about this album are all the players and backing singers. It’s a who’s who of folk, country and country rock. Amos Garrett, Linda Ronstadt, Glen D. Hardin and James Burton ( both of Elvis’ TCB Band), Ricky Skaggs, Ben Keith (most famous as Neil Young’s right hand pedal steel man) and The Eagles’ Bernie Leadon. I really enjoyed this album and even though I am a big fan of Harris’ work from Wrecking Ball to present, her earlier stuff is good too. Other highlights: Bluebird Wine, If I Could Only Win Your Love, Sleepless Nights and Queen of the Sliver Dollar. Overall, I give Pieces of the Sky, 5 out of 5.
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