“Emmylou Harris’ formula has been to match a crack crew of left-of-center country players with an assortment of tasteful tunes and head into the studio with a nonintrusive producer. Now and then (most notably the 1980 bluegrass collection Roses in the Snow), she tampers with her basic blueprint and comes up with something exceptional. Wrecking Ball is one of those.” SS
It “is a leftfield masterpiece, the most wide-ranging, innovative, and daring record in a career built on such notions. Rich in atmosphere and haunting in its dark complexity, much of the due credit belongs to producer Daniel Lanois; best known for his work with pop superstars like U2 and Peter Gabriel.” JA His “radiant production no longer seems as fresh as it did on albums by U2, Peter Gabriel, and Bob Dylan, but here its hum enfolds Harris like an electric blanket.” SS He “taps into the very essence of what makes Harris tick – the gossamer vocals, the flawless phrasing – while also opening up innumerable new avenues for her talents to explore.” JA
“Lanois’ usual recruits, …New Orleans regulars Malcolm Burn, Brian Blade, and Daryl Johnson, lay down a solid base for Harris's weary vocals and Lanois’ buzzing guitar.” SS “The songs shimmer and swirl, given life through Lanois’ trademark ringing guitar textures and the almost primal drumming of U2’s Larry Mullen, Jr.” JA
“The fixed point remains Harris’ voice, which leaps into each and every one of these diverse compositions – culled from the pens of Neil Young [title cut], Bob Dylan [Every Grain of Sand], Jimi Hendrix [May This Be Love], Steve Earle [Goodbye], and others – with utter fearlessness.” JA
“At its core, Wrecking Ball seems almost too finely calculated. Hot producer plus sought-after songwriters plus venerated performer frequently totals to deadly bore. Here, however, all that calculation adds up to something.” SS It is “as if this were the album she’d been waiting her entire life to make. Maybe it is.” JA
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Last updated April 2, 2011.