Album: Emmylou Harris

Stumble Into Grace, Nonesuch
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The Independent Culture

Thirty five years into her career, and almost a decade after the triumphant artistic rebirth of 1995's Daniel Lanois-helmed Wrecking Ball, Emmylou Harris continues to cast a light on American country music that shows no sign of dimming. Stumble into Grace finds the 57-year-old singer in sublime voice, ruminating on such bleak themes as death ("Strong Hand"), war ("Time in Babylon"), regret ("I Will Dream") and loneliness ("Can You Hear Me Now?"). Despite the gloomy subject matter, Emmylou manages to bring a spiritual, life-affirming quality to her songs. "Strong Hand", a tribute to the late June Carter Cash, is a moving love story in which she notes "It's a miracle how one soul finds another/ Just one miracle is all it took my brother." And on a somewhat lighter note, in "Little Bird" she wills a bird to help her win the heart of an indifferent lover. Along with writing collaborations with Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Luscious Jackson's Jill Cunliff, Stumble into Grace also features vocal contributions from Jane Siberry and Harris's old friend Linda Ronstadt. Each song comes with the most sparing of arrangements, a touch of acoustic guitar here, a light flourish of accordian there. Happily, Emmylou isn't interested in restricting her sound to plain old country. Stumble into Grace comes with shades of folk, soul and, on "Little Bird", even Peruvian pipe music. Ravishing.

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