Emmylou Harris borrowed from a bevy of songwriters and guest stars to birth this beauteous bluegrass benediction. After her marriage to Brian Ahern in 1977, Harris had turned to a more traditional country sound on 'Blue Kentucky Girl' and her Christmas album 'Light of the Stable'; but it was with her seventh album that she embraced a bluegrass aesthethic. 'Roses in the Snow' was recorded in Los Angeles at The Enactron Truck and mixed in Enactron Studio Two and features the star-studded cast of Brian Ahern on 12-string guitar, adamas guitar, archtop guitar, gut-string guitar, bass, and percussion; Bryan Bowers on autoharp; Johnny Cash on backing vocals; Jerry Douglas on dobro; Emory Gordy, Jr. on bass; Emmylou Harris on vocals and acoustic guitar; Albert Lee on electric guitar and mandolin; Willie Nelson on gut-string guitar; Dolly Parton on backing vocals; Tony Rice: acoustic guitar and backing vocals; Linda Ronstadt on duet vocals and backing vocals; Ricky Skaggs on acoustic guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, duet vocals, and backing vocals; John Ware on percussion; Buck White on piano and backing vocals; Cheryl White and Sharon White on backing vocals. The sessions were produced and engineered by Brian Ahern with engineers Donivan Cowart and Stuart Taylor.
Harris would reveal: “If you’re looking at an overview — I definitely came in through the country door. It’s like saying, ‘Where were you born. What are your roots?’ I was a folk singer who became totally over the edge with country music. I found my voice and style working with Gram Parsons. I learned how to listen to George Jones records and the Louvin Brothers. Listening to harmonies. Being enthused. I was a woman with a mission after Gram’s death, trying to keep his music alive — and bring what I liked about country music to people like me who came to it without growing up with it. Discovering the beauty and depth of it instead of the caricature. This politically incorrect music (laughs) I really was on a crusade. Even from my very first record, I think I established a pattern of eclecticism. And I was hoping to encourage other people to go out and buy George Jones records. And discover the music that shouldn’t be left behind. There was a power and beauty to it...Overseas there is no confusion. If I’m a country artist, whatever record I do is country. They don’t pigeonhole it. Here the pigeonholing is rampant. I never followed a pattern. If I had any kind of style it was no style. I could do a traditional record like ‘Blue Kentucky Girl', and people didn’t understand it. So we went even further into the traditional with ‘Roses in the Snow'. That’s considered my ‘country’ record, but it’s really my bluegrass record."
Although the executives at Warner Brothers were not excited about the album, 'Roses in the Snow' went to number forty-seven in the Netherlands, twenty-six on the US pop album chart, and number two on the Canadian and US country album charts. It became her sixth of seven consecutive gold albums. Harris considers: "I think [what I want is] all determined by the song really. All the musicians I have worked with are just very creative and it’s a thing that happens in the studio at that moment of recording. And also it’s not like this is a country record. Over the years, we have done a few things that were very specific. I think the best example of that was Roses in the Snow where we consciously set out to get that bluegrass feel and that acoustic feel; so no one is going to confuse that with anything. But also, I’m very happy in that eclectic world. I’m happiest when I can mix and match. Once in a while I think it’s good to say, 'Alright, let’s work in this form.' I think bluegrass has a very, very strict musical form. I think once you start to dilute it, it disappears. It doesn’t mean that what you get can’t be good. But I think it is a restrictive form in a good way."
"Gold Watch and Chain"
'Roses in the Snow'
"Roses in the Snow" (Ruth Franks) – 2:32
"Wayfaring Stranger" (Traditional/arr. Brian Ahern) – 3:26
"Green Pastures" (Traditional/arr. Brian Ahern) – 3:08
"The Boxer" (Paul Simon) – 3:16
"Darkest Hour is Just Before Dawn" (Ralph Stanley) – 3:22
"I'll Go Stepping Too" (Tom James/Jerry Organ) – 2:16
"You're Learning" (Ira Louvin/Charlie Louvin) – 2:57
"Jordan" (Traditional/arr. Brian Ahern) – 2:07
"Miss the Mississippi and You" (Bill Halley) – 3:40
"Gold Watch and Chain" (A.P. Carter) – 3:12
"You're Gonna Change" (Hank Williams) – 2:40
"Root Like a Rose" (Nancy Ahern) – 4:45