(The Return of)
1973/4 — 1998/9
On the publication of Grievous Angel in 1974, Gram Parsons was already dead, victim of overdosing on morphine and tequila at age 26. The legend grew. When a sometime member of the Byrds, Parsons had masterminded the groundbreaking Sweetheart of the Rodeo; he had founded the Flying Burrito Brothers, hoping to realize his ideas of what he termed “cosmic American music.” He had been working with the Rolling Stones (“Wild Horses” and “Tumbling Dice” attest to the collaboration) before teaming up with Emmylou Harris. GP and Grievous Angel, the two albums resulting from the combined effort (Parsons and Harris were married in 1973), became milestones in the development of what was termed country rock, the kind of music the Eagles polished to a multiplatinum sheen.
The high regard many fellow musicians had for Parsons’ work was never equalled by the (comparatively) meager commercial success of the last two records. Some critics, in fact, claimed that they soon were more or less forgotten and held it to be little more than a private quirk that Emmylou Harris repeatedly insisted that the few months she spent with Parsons had been the most influential in all of her career. (And what a career she has had, rising to reign undisputed as the Queen of Country Rock.)
After twenty-five years, the imbalance between the artistic quality attributed to Parsons’ albums and public neglect of them is finally redressed as Harris produced a collection of songs designed as a tribute to Parsons’ musical genius. The Return of the Grievous Angel brings together former colleagues (like Chris Hillman and David Crosby), long-time admirers (like Steve Earle), and musicians of the next generation(s) in a unique blend—a series of explorations of where country rock might have gone with Parsons, or where it still could go.
Go to the two records