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Harris, Ronstadt, Parton Get Atmospheric on 'II'

*** 1/2; EMMYLOU HARRIS, LINDA RONSTADT, DOLLY PARTON; "Trio II"; Asylum

February 15, 1999|RANDY LEWIS

A lot has changed since these three country-pop thrushes teamed up in 1987 and sold 2 million copies of the first "Trio" album. So while this successor (due in stores Tuesday) shows the same commitment to tradition, coupled with a willingness to push boundaries, it stands far less chance of getting any attention in country circles.

But that's only a sad commentary on the regimented country establishment. The beauty of these performances needs no apologies. Where the original "Trio" was rooted in bluegrass and stretched into the buoyant pop of "Mr. Sandman," here the digressions from old-timey country lean more toward the atmospheric pop that Harris and Ronstadt have been exploring of late.

Their inspired reading of the Neil Young stalwart "After the Gold Rush" brings harmonies of celestial loveliness to Young's elegy to a passing era. Harris' signature vocal purity is a perfect match for Donagh Long's stunningly pretty love song "You'll Never Be the Sun." And Ronstadt taps her formidable country-rock heritage in Jennifer Kimball and Tom Kimmel's "Blue Train" and Randy Newman's "Feels Like Home."

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent). The albums are already released unless otherwise noted.

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