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Emmylou Harris Greatest Hits: 16 Top Tracks From the Country Icon, Ranked

The Red Dirt Girl’s music has been inspiring fellow artists and fans for decades

Emmylou Harris fans don’t have to worry about the artist riding off into the music industry sunset anytime soon. “I have to say that I love my work,” the Alabama-born singer told Clash magazine, adding, “I saw a quote, where Willie Nelson was asked: ‘Willie, when are you going to retire?’ And he said: ‘Well, all I do is play music and play golf. So which one do you want me to give up?’ And I don’t play golf! And…I still love playing music [so] they’re going to have to pull me off the stage with a hook, I guess.”

From her 1970 debut Gliding Bird and her early years of artistic partnership with mentor Gram Parsons, through heading up her Nash Ramblers and partnering with fellow legends Linda Ronstadt and Dolly Parton for their Trio collaboration, Harris has carved out her own lane in the music world by offering a brilliant blend of traditional country, bluegrass, Americana, folk, blues, rock, and pop. “Along the way, she brought millions of new young fans to country music by providing common ground for rock audiences and country listeners,” as noted by the Country Music Hall of Fame, which inducted her into which she was inducted in 2008.

three women on album cover
Robert Alexander / Contributor / Getty
Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton and Linda Rondstadt (1997)

Her thoughtful, inspired storytelling as a songwriter has complimented her ability to offer fresh covers of classics, such as Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty” and Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams,” which Harris took to No. 1 on the country charts in 1976.

Her talent has earned her a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, 13 other Grammy wins, and three Country Music Association (CMA) top honors, including 1980’s Female Vocalist of the Year. “It has been extraordinary for me starting out as a Joan Baez wannabe with a $30 Kay guitar when I was 16. And think about what a joyful, blessed career I have had,” she told No Depression, the Journal of Roots Music, of all the achievements her passions for singing and songwriting have brought her.

They’ve also earned her a lot of respect from countless other artists who consider her their hero. “When I was a kid, I was…always looking for females out front,” Sheryl Crow told USA Today of Harris, who “was the first woman I discovered that was actually fronting a band [and playing] a guitar, doing music that I could totally relate to.… She writes about not just the struggles of females but of humanity. She is just truly one of the great American singer-songwriters.”

woman singing; emmylou harris greatest hits
Brett Carlsen / Contributor / Getty
Emmylou Harris (2022)

Here are just some of Emmylou Harris’ greatest hits from her 50-plus year career. You just might catch them live, as the artist has a list of concert dates and festival gigs booked throughout the remainder of 2024.

16. “If I Could Only Win Your Love” (1975)

If I could only win your love, I’d make the most of everything. I’d proudly wear your wedding ring, my heart would never stray one dream away. Harris’ vocals soar on this duet with Herb Pedersen as they deftly tackle this 1958 Louvin Brothers tune.

“We put out…Pieces of the Sky, and [this track] was making some noise on the country charts. We played at an outdoor festival around LA and people went nuts over the song and I realized that is what the charts do for you,” she told No Depression, the Journal of Roots Music. “But the charts are a double-edged sword and I never lived or died by [them].… I have always been in left field, which is a great place to be because you can do whatever you want to do.”

15. “Together Again” (1975): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

The love that we knew is living again, and nothing else matters ’cause we’re together again. Harris took her sublime rendition of this Buck Owens classic to the No. 1 position on the Hot Country Songs chart. Owens and Harris teamed up in 1979 and released “Play Together Again, Again,” which winked at the fact they’d both recorded his 1964 original.

14. “Beneath Still Waters” (1980)

Darling, I’m saying I know something’s wrong. Beneath still waters, your love is gone. Success first bubbled up for George Jones in 1968 with this Dallas Frazier song, but it also went on to become Harris’ fourth No. 1 on the country charts.

“Harris’ version is simply exquisite,” insists Country Universe, which adds, “Her lonesome wail is tailor-made for the lyric, which captures the feeling of impending doom, even while everything still seems fine on the surface.”

13. “One of These Days” (1976): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

One of these days, it will soon be all over, cut and dried, and I won’t have this urge to go all bottled up inside. Harris scored a No. 3 hit on the country charts with this charmer written by Earl “Peanutt” Montgomery, who, in 2023, joined Harris — a 2003 inductee — in the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. The song was also covered by the First Lady of Country Music herself, Tammy Wynette.

12. “That Lovin’ You Feelin’ Again” (1980)

We were so close, we were too far apart. I gave you my love, I wanted your heart. Without yesterday haunting the way maybe we’d still be together. Harris’ “voice blends mesmerically with Roy Orbison’s gentle warble on this selection off of her 1990 Duets compilation album, and the track — co-written by Orbison — won them a Grammy for Best Country Performance Duo or Group.

11. “Wrecking Ball” (1995): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

My life’s an open book, you read it on the radio. Harris welcomes “Wrecking Ball” songwriter Neil Young on her atmospheric version of his tune, for which he provides harmonies. It served as the title track of her phenomenal 1995 LP, which won the Grammy for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

“Harris’ voice is rich and smoky” throughout its 12 tracks, Pitchfork writes, noting that she transforms Young’s original “into a transcendental invocation, opening it with a gauzy haze of guitar that feels like a lifting mist.”

10. “Blue Kentucky Girl” (1979)

Remember when those neon lights shine down, that big old moon shines on your Kentucky girl. Harris herself shines on this Johnny Mullins track, which went to No. 6 on the country charts, and her Blue Kentucky Girl album went on to earn her a Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance. Harris had some pretty big cowgirl boots to fill on the song, too, as it had originally been done by Loretta Lynn!

9. “Two More Bottles of Wine” (1978): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

Ain’t gonna let it bother me today, I been workin’ and I’m too tired anyway. But it’s all right ’cause it’s midnight and I got two more bottles of wine. Harris has some tipsy fun on this Delbert McClinton jam, which hit No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart.

Miranda Lambert, speaking of the influence Harris had on her career, once told Billboard, “I’d heard [Delbert’s] version, but it hit harder with her singing, because I had gone through this phase of ‘How do I be a badass and still be feminine?’ Emmy exuded all of that.”

8. “Love Hurts” (1998)

Love is like a cloud. Holds a lot of rain. “That song, and our harmony, is kind of a pinnacle of our duet-singing together,” Harris told The Guardian of this beautiful and moving collaboration with Gram Parsons, revealing, “We probably did it all in one take, live.”

7. “In My Dreams” (1983): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

Well, bye-bye baby, it seems that we’re all through. You sure know how to make this little girl blue. Harris scored a Grammy win for Best Country Vocal Performance for this tune written by Paul Kennerley, her husband from 1985 to 1993. Fun fact: White Shoes, the album this song is on, also includes a country cover of Donna Summer’s “On the Radio.”

6. “To Daddy” (1978)

Mama never wanted any more than what she had. If she did, she never did say so to daddy. Dolly Parton penned this bittersweet winner about a lonely, overlooked wife, which Harris took to No. 3 on the country charts. Parton, who had recorded it herself in 1976 but never released it, eventually did put it out in 1995 on a compilation album.

5. “Woman Walk the Line” (1985): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

Yes, I’m a woman and I’m lonely, but that don’t mean I can’t be strong. As a way of processing Gram Parsons’ 1973 death, Harris channeled her grief into the songs she penned for her 1985 album The Ballad of Sally Rose, which she told The Guardian “was the first time I threw myself into writing a whole album.” Harris lends her heavenly harmonies on Trisha Yearwood’s stellar 1992 cover of this gem.

4. “Wayfaring Stranger” (1980)

I am a poor wayfaring stranger, while traveling through this world of woe. The artist’s acclaimed interpretation of this mid 1800s folk-gospel sits perfectly in her range and, as American Songwriter notes, she “nails the mournful vocals over a stripped instrumental, communicating the loneliness of the song’s protagonist as they wander the world.”

3. “Born to Run” (1982): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

Nobody gonna make me do the things their way. By the time you figure it out, it’s yesterday. Another Paul Kennerley tune, which Harris took to No. 3 on the country charts, “Born to Run” finds Harris sounding free, confident, bold and — as the song goes — livin’ as dangerous as dynamite.

“If you’ve got Emmylou Harris in a room with an astonishingly good group of musicians, all you have to do is press record,” Kennerley has said of his former wife’s talents.

2. “Boulder to Birmingham” (1975)

I would walk all the way from Boulder to Birmingham, if I thought I could see, I could see your face. The artist’s lyrics here are raw and powerful, and at the same time comforting. Harris wrote them in the wake of Gram Parsons’ death.

“Words can be so powerful to help you express something you otherwise can’t,” she told The Guardian. “And everyone has experienced loss, so even though the song is deeply personal, I can understand how people can relate to it, having lost someone who is very close to them.”

1. “Red Dirt Girl” (2000): Emmylou Harris greatest hits

She said there’s not much hope for a red dirt girl. Somewhere out there is a great big world, thats where I’m bound. Though the characters are fictional in this iconic tune Harris wrote about her Alabama roots, she explained to The Guardian that she did identify with the narrator.

“I could have just as easily been the other one who made some decisions and took their life down a road that wasn’t nearly as good a path as that other person. It doesn’t mean I’m better than that person. I was lucky,” she said of this defining title track to her Grammy-winning Best Contemporary Folk Album.

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