In “Hard Bargain” she wrote most of the songs, a terrifying challenge for her. The themes reflect thoughts about herself and also about generations – mentors, ancestors, friends living and dead, children and grandchildren, mortality and faith.
“You get to a certain age when the life that has preceded you is going to be longer than what is ahead of you” she told the New York Times, “You just accept it — this is where you are at this point in your life…..The ideas came out of what was happening in my world.”
Those themes include a lullaby inspired by her grandchild, “Goodnight Old World,” which looks to a newborn child to “soften the sorrow” of “this sad world.” “The Ship on His Arm” tells the story of her parents’ dramatic and beautiful romance during World War II and their happy marriage afterwards.
She exhibits the advantages of age — emotional depth and great professional and personal relationships. Hear tracks from her previous CD and/or buy it All I Intended to Be.
Her long career gives her emotional depth plus great professional and personal contacts, all of which energize her to be the singer she is today. A Baby Boomer singer and musician who spans folk and rock, she began her career in the late 60’s. A lot of career and life since then adds depth to her music. Charlie Rose asked her about the sad songs. She said, “You plumb the depths more as a singer, there’s more emotional meat in those universals like love, death and heartbreak.”
“I’m not sure why I’m so drawn to them; I’ve actually had a happy childhood and a blessed life.” That attitude is hard won. When she was 5 her beloved father spent 10 months as a Korean prisoner of war, and she has been through divorces, friends’ deaths and raising children alone, not to mention being a woman in a tough business.
After an early start, then a divorce, she moved back with her parents, taking her baby daughter. Touring with Graham Parsons, the leader of the Flying Burrito Brothers and her mentor, helped establish her. It was a an important country rock collaboration influencing The Byrds, the Rolling Stones and others. Then a devastating blow – Graham died of an overdose of drugs and alcohol in 1972.
She did go on to build a career strongly based on relationships and collaboration with other musicians and singers. She contributed to albums by Linda Ronstadt, Guy Clark, Neil Young, Bob Dylan and sang in The Band’s movie, The Last Waltz, and worked with a broad range of musicians.
Moving more directly into country music, her first big hit was “If I Could Only Win Your Love” on Pieces of the Sky. Elite Hotel was a #1 country album that crossed over to rock and won her a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Female. Luxury Liner mixes songs from Chuck Berry, The Carter Family and Gram Parsons. In 1980 she recorded a Top Ten Hit, “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again” with Roy Orbison and won another Grammy. The Legend of Jesse James featured her with Levon Helm of The Band and Johnny Cash.
By 1985, her songwriting skills more developed, she co-wrote all the songs on The Ballad of Sally Rose. Her biggest commercial success was teeming up with Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton for the album Trio . In 1995, Wrecking Ball brought her a new alternative rock audience -click the link to listen to the songs again, especially the beloved title track. Many of her lyrics are available at CowboyLyrics.com. Hear music samples at Last FM.
More collaborative work followed, especially with Ronstadt, Parton, the Dixie Chicks and other women. Grammys followed too. In 2000, a solo CD, Red Dirt Girl , made Billboard’s charts in both country and pop, and an 11th Grammy. The soundtrack contributions to the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? was the 12th in 2000.
She’s widely praised for her influence on so many talented musicians. Friendships, especially in the Nashville community, have been her rock, she says. In 2008, she was inducted into Nashville’s Country Music of Hall of Fame.