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In the Spotlight with Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris

Courtesy of Webster

​Courtesy of Webster

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris have once more captivated audiences with their latest collaborative effort.

“There were these beautiful gems that, for one reason or another, hadn’t found their place on the original releases,” Harris references Trio and Trio II, the first two albums in the series which first dropped in 1987 and 1999 to commercial and critical success alike. Harris carries on with a definitive tone, “We just felt like this is everything that we did. I don’t think there was a dud in any of [the songs], so why not put it all out for people who were fans of the Trio?”

The newest release, a three-disc set appropriately entitled The Complete Trio Collection, reissues the first two albums in remastered formats and debuts a third CD with alternate and previously unreleased takes recorded during the earlier Trio sessions. Altogether, the collection presents an intricate blend of beloved country favorites with an additional twenty tracks from the vault, as it showcases the collective efforts of three of the industry’s most revered artists.

Parton, Ronstadt, and Harris have achieved timeless appeal in each of their respective solo endeavors. Among the countless classics churned out by all three—including “Jolene,” “9 to 5,” “Islands in the Stream,” "You’re No Good,” and “Back In Baby’s Arms,” among many others—no other work encapsulates both their vocal prowess and the spirit of sisterhood more than The Complete Trio Collection.

“When the three of us sang, it sounded so special,” Ronstadt recalls. “My favorite combination is when Emmy starts singing lead and Dolly comes in on the top. It’s so beautiful. You can hear the different characteristics of the vocals.”

The clarity in the collection’s acoustics becomes apparent the minute listeners hear the trio’s yearning harmonies in “To Know Him Is To Love Him” and “Calling My Children Home," the gentle twangs of the autoharp, fiddle, and pedal steel guitar in “Wildflowers” and “Even Cowgirls Get The Blues,” and the striking lead vocals of the three performers as they weave through “Telling Me Lies“ and “Making Plans".

To the albums’ masterful sound production, Ronstadt credits award-winning music engineer, George Massenburg, who she maintains played a pivotal role in the production of all three releases.

“George was great at listening and what he would refer to as ‘carrying out our whim’,” Ronstadt affirms. “The music ideas came from us and he’d keep us from getting into a muddle and going off in 29 different directions. He’s one of the great sound recorders, George Massenberg. You talk to a sound engineer, his eyes will widen at the mention of his name. He invented a lot of the stuff in early digital recording.”

Beyond the obvious treat for the fans, The Complete Trio sessions serve as an opportunity for the country gals to pick up where they left off nearly two decades ago. Having each faced numerous personal obstacles in recent years, the ladies admit that returning to their roots by way of the Trio catalogue proved a cathartic and somewhat nurturing experience.

“As soon as I heard [the songs again,]” Harris recollects, “I remembered we did that, but I didn’t remember how great it was. I mean, it was so touching and moving—like a Christmas present you forgot to open.”

“It’s nice to have it all together,” says Parton with a pep in her voice. “I just think we all take such pride in this. I know that for me, this will always stand as one of the greatest musical things that I’ve done in my entire life. I’ve never been prouder of anything else. I love these girls like sisters, but what we did as ‘The Trio’ will stand up long after we’re all gone.”

“I think that too, Dolly,” Ronstadt chimes in. “One of my favorite musical experiences ever.”

“Yeah, well, mine too,” Harris adds. “So it’s unanimous.”

“Yay!” Parton chuckles. “That’s why we’re the Trio!”


Credits: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Emmylou Harris, Kirt Webster, Spencer Turney

© Veronika Tacheva, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved. Do not reprint without permission.

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