Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter Wonderland: Roses in the Snow

Emmylou Harris: Roses in the Snow


Roses in the Snow was Emmylou Harris' bluegrass album. Released in 1980, it was the follow up recording to her 1979 release Blue Kentucky Girl... a straightforward country record that produced a number one single and won Emmy a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance. Of course, the smart thing to do after releasing a successful and highly acclaimed country album is to then immediately release a bluegrass album in the midst of the Countrypolitan, Urban Cowboy world of 1980's Nashville. Her label didn't want to release it at first, but eventually caved after Emmylou refused to shelve the project. The label heads feared a commercial failure.

However misguided the move may have seemed to some... Emmylou made it work. The album went to number two on the country charts (it was certified Gold faster than any other Emmylou recording) and is still as well loved as any in her catalogue. Tony Rice, Ricky Skaggs, Albert Lee, Emory Gordy, and producer Brian Ahern formed the core of the band for this album with guest appearances by Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Jerry Douglas, Linda Ronstadt, and The Whites. With a cast like that, it's easy to see how Emmylou created a masterpiece.

When Emmylou was looking for songs for Roses in the Snow, she began going through record stores and looking for bluegrass songs written and performed by female artists... a rarity at the time in a male dominated genre. In a dusty pile in the back room of Tower Records, she found an album by bluegrass artist Delia Bell. Emmylou had never heard of Bell, but she bought the album anyway and was introduced to the Ruth Franks penned "Roses in the Snow." The story of lost love told from a female perspective captured Emmy's imagination and led her to include it as the lead track, and title cut, on her album.

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