In 1990, Emmylou Harris’ run of superb mid-’70s albums was over, and she hadn’t yet assembled the Nash Ramblers, the acoustic band that gave her music a heady kick-start prior to her first striking collaboration with Daniel Lanois, Wrecking Ball. As a result, Brand New Dance captures Harris at the end of one cycle and just before the start of another, and the material and production suggest Harris was ready for some changes. Emmylou Harris probably couldn’t make a truly bad album if she tried, and as always, she’s in lovely voice on Brand New Dance, but she doesn’t always sound especially engaged with the material, most of which falls into the “good-but-not-great” category (notable exceptions — a strong cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Tougher Than the Rest” and the title cut). In addition, producer Allen Reynolds puts a shade too much pop-friendly gloss on the arrangements and mix for several of these tunes, and despite the presence of a truly impressive team of accompanists, this album never quite catches fire as in Harris’ best work. Brand New Dance is a strong and professional piece of work, but Harris’ next few albums would remind fans she was capable of a lot more than that.
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