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Are fans of the Sweetheart of the Rodeo ready for EmmyloU2?
They'd better be, because Harris, detouring from the folk-country realm that she has dominated artistically for two decades, has teamed with producer Daniel Lanois, best known for his work with U2 and Peter Gabriel and for his own haunting 1989 album, "Acadie."
His signatures are all in place on "Wrecking Ball." The air in the room seems to be gently pulsating. Military drum and a glow of echo impart a burnished, antique quality, and electric guitar layering provides a sonic edge. The pace is deliberate, unhurried, meditative, the atmosphere rich, dark and ghostly.
This might be new terrain for Harris, but she's certainly no stranger to the underlying currents of melancholy, regret and longing in the sound and in songs by writers including Neil Young, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix.
Material and approach don't always connect, and Harris doesn't seem comfortable at every turn, but there's much more chemistry than there was on "Across the Borderline," the similarly conceived 1993 collaboration between Don Was and Willie Nelson.
Overall, Harris seems exhilarated by the chance to let her pristine voice crack, slur and become grainy. There are worse things for a honky-tonk angel than to acquire an earthly guise.
New albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (excellent).