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Emmylou Harris's Ten Commandments of Country 




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12 October 2007 (UK)  »

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Failed to excite or interest me in the genre or the star
16 November 2007 | by See all my reviews

Don't ask me why but recently BBC4 did a night focused on country music star Emmylou Harris. My taste for country music goes no further than the comedy of Rich Hall's creation Otis Lee Crenshaw but my faith in BBC4 as a channel where I get room to think made me check out a couple of the film. Before the film began I had not heard one note of Ms Harris' music and indeed could not have picked her out of a line-up unless everyone else had been men.

Anyway, this film is essentially Emmylou Harris and fellow musicians performing live in front of an intimate audience. The songs she performs are not necessarily hers but rather a selection she has put together to demonstrate to the audience the ten rules (or commandments) that are generally following in regards country music. These include colourfully phrased rules about "leaving but trying to get back to where you were", "telling good stories", "love hurting" and so on. This device acts as a reasonable frame for the performance but to be honest for some of them it is a bit clunky and some of the songs are not linked to the theme As well as speaking on stage, Harris gives some more detail in a handful of talking head contributions but really she doesn't add much more than she says on stage. In regards the theme of the commandments, I gotta say that these didn't always fit that well and it felt like the songs had been picked already and then forced into the commandments. The location is quite cheap looking as well and the red curtains made it feel like a rubbish stage tarted up for the cameras – the audience also felt absent apart from a few shots of a white audience of a certain age. Beyond this it is hard to comment because personally I felt that the music did almost nothing more me. I'm not against country, just unfamiliar with it and I was open to being won over by Harris but it just all seemed bland and uninteresting to me and there were some songs that she made sound almost the same to my ear.

Fans will enjoy it I'm sure but for me it failed to really get me interested or excited about the genre or Harris herself.

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