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Album Review

Adventurous, Rewarding Ride

*** EMMYLOU HARRIS AND LINDA RONSTADT "Western Wall: The Tucson Sessions" Elektra

August 15, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

Less related to the pair's Trio projects with Dolly Parton, this set of bold song choices and vivid textures is more a payoff of Harris' 1995 "Wrecking Ball" explorations. But where producer Daniel Lanois dominated that noteworthy but flawed set, veteran producer Glyn Johns seems truer to Harris' gifts and vision on "Wall" (which comes out Aug. 24).

Choosing the songs, Harris combined expected sources (Leonard Cohen, Jackson Browne, Bruce Springsteen) with more surprising ones (Andy Prieboy, Sinead O'Connor, Springsteen's wife Patti Scialfa). There's a similar balance in the way Ronstadt's rich, warm voice complements Harris' desert-angel tones.

That it's not a conventional Harris or Ronstadt effort is clear from the start, as former Wall of Voodoo singer Prieboy's "Loving the Highway Man" sets the mood with dark imagery and arresting dynamics. In contrast, the more familiar approach taken on such songs as Browne's "For a Dancer" seems almost mundane.

At times Ronstadt seems a mere rider on Harris' vehicle, but what a satisfying ride.

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