Emmylou Harris back to 'heavy stuff'

THE NAME OF her new album is "All I Intended to Be." And if all Emmylou Harris intended to be was a country music legend, an in-demand collaborator, a 12-time Grammy winner and a beloved entertainer, she's succeeded. She's also succeeded in transcending Nashville's fickle machinery by appealing to a broad audience, and doing things on her own terms.

The new album is a bit of a throwback to her early days for several reasons. Her most recent releases, "Stumble Into Grace" and "Red Dirt Girl," were largely self-penned affairs. "All I Intended to Be" calls her considerable interpretive skills back into play for a collection of songs written by others.

Harris, who'll perform at Chastain Park Amphitheatre June 27, gave us a little background on the new album in a recent phone conversation.

"I took a year off with the intention of writing, and I got so busy because I just said yes to everything. That's not really an excuse, but ..." she says before trailing off. "And then I found myself a long way from my last record and I only had about five songs in my arsenal that I'd written. That made me go back and dust off these gems that I'd always wanted to record. So, ultimately, that was what I was supposed to do."

The album seems awash in mortality, but Harris, with a chuckle, says that's unintentional. "I'm not trying to bring people down, but there are certain songs that just resonate for you.

"I've always had that theme. It's not like this is new," she continues. "And of course if you love country music, and you love bluegrass and the old mountain stuff, I mean, it's love and death. There isn't anything else, really. God, love and death. They're pretty intriguing themes. It's the heavy stuff. They're kind of hard to resist."

Another reason the album carries hints of her early work is the presence of producer and ex-husband Brian Ahern, giving it what Harris calls "the clean, beautiful sound that he got on those early records." He produced her stellar run of albums from 1975's "Pieces of the Sky" through 1983's "White Shoes."

"This is the first complete album that we've done since we split up in '83," Harris says. "But we have worked together, so it isn't quite as dramatic an event. You know, we raised a child together, and have kind of picked up our friendship — and our working relationship has remained intact."

• THE 411: Emmylou Harris. 8 p.m. June 27. $25-$75. Chastain Park Amphitheatre, 4469 Stella Drive N.W., Atlanta. 404-733-4800, 404-249-6400, www.classicchastain.com.

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