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Monday, Sept. 22, 2008

Emmylou Harris

All I Intended To Be (Nonesuch)

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  A true elder stateswoman of country music, Emmylou Harris returns with her first album since 2006's Mark Knopfler collaboration, All the Roadrunning. On the nostalgic All IIntended to Be, Harris once again borrows buddy/superstar power for an updated bout of rustic shoe-gazing, Nashville-style.

  Dolly Parton and Vince Gill contribute backing vocals ("Gold"), Tracy Chapman lends an original ("All That You Have Is Your Soul") and Merle Haggard gets covered ("Kern River") as Harris returns to her bare-soul songwriting roots and pastoral '70s production (aided by none other than her '70s-'80s producer, Brian Ahern).

  Completely acoustic-based and largely dobro-fueled, the sleepy tales of brokenhearted Americana and hard-time drinking take their time, simmering in autumnal murmurs. Other than the continued miracle of Harris' voice, what might be most singular about the album is the maturity so glaringly absent from contemporary country music. And as a soundtrack, it's a rarity well suited for pickup truck rides on the back roads of blue states.