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Light Of The Stable [Bonus Tracks]

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Critics' Reviews

amg review
Emmylou Harris is an artist with the rare sort of voice that communicates an honest and firmly grounded humanity while possessing a crystalline purity that verges on the angelic. In short, she was a singer born to make a great Christmas album, and in 1979 she did just that with Light of the Stable, in which she fused the high-lonesome traditional sound she'd been exploring on Roses in the Snow and Blue Kentucky Girl with songs that honored the spiritual and emotional roots of the holiday season. The album's gestation began with a 1975 single of "Light of the Stable," with most of the material recorded years later, but Harris and producer Brian Ahern gave the project an admirably unified sound, which speaks of Christmas with a quiet dignity that's celebratory but reverent -- this is one of the few Christmas albums from a secular artist that scarcely mentions Santa Claus while focusing clearly on the birth of Christ. Harris and Ahern assembled a stellar cast for these sessions -- the pickers include Ricky Skaggs, James Burton, and Rodney Crowell, while Willie Nelson, Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Neil Young pitch in backing vocals -- but the results are a marvel of restraint, with precious little showboating and a handful of performances that rank with the performers' best work. If you're looking for a disc that will kick up your Christmas party a few notches, Light of the Stable isn't it, but if you want to hear music of quiet but compelling beauty which warmly resonates with the true meaning of the holidays, then you'll find this album is an experience to treasure. [In the liner notes to Rhino's 2004 reissue of Light of the Stable, Harris jokes that "We used to affectionately call the album the best-kept secret in the music business...that is why we could put it out with a different cover every year." While she exaggerates a bit, the 2004 edition of the disc did indeed feature its third set of cover artwork, as well as three new songs recorded especially for this edition. While the new songs display traces of the more adventurous approach Harris embraced on Wrecking Ball and Red Dirt Girl, they still fit comfortably with the album's original ten tracks, especially the lovely "There's a Light" and "Man Is an Island," while the new mastering makes the most of the album's crisp, warm sound -- if Harris didn't exactly improve a masterpiece, she certainly gave it a new finish that reinforces the qualities that make it so memorable in the first place.] ~ Mark Deming, Rovi