January 25, 2001 at 05:00 AM EST

Brand New Dance

Current Status
In Season
Emmylou Harris
Reprise Records
We gave it an A

At 43, and thrice married, Harris knows something about faltering relationships and when it’s best just to bail out. That theme arises in Paul Kennerley’s title song, accented with the sound of Celtic pipes and whistle, in which a couple realizes they’ve lost touch with each other, but commit to renewing their love because neither could stand the pain of separation. There are upbeat moments in Brand New Dance, too, such as ”Sweet Dreams of You,” on which Richard Bennett’s tremolo guitar jars like an earthquake, and ”Rollin’ and Ramblin’ (The Death of Hank Williams),” a song that paints an unforgettable image of Williams’ body traveling home on a night train, when ”the whistle sang the bluest note/Like it came from his own throat.” Harris has lost some of her upper-range power through the years, but as usual, she turns in a spellbinding performance, one that reinforces her reputation as one of the most soulful country singers. A

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