Album Review: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, & Emmylou Harris’ ‘The Complete Trio Collection’

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, & Emmylou Harris have released an updated version of their Trio albums in a three disc collection.

Written by Chuck Dauphin
Album Review: Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, & Emmylou Harris’ ‘The Complete Trio Collection’
Photo courtesy Webster Public Relations

In the late 1970s, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris began to record together – on an occasional basis. Perhaps the best-known of these tracks was their cover of the Pop classic “Mr. Sandman.” However, due to record company politics, the three iconic women couldn’t really explore each other’s talents to the extent that they wanted to. However, with Dolly’s recording contract with RCA coming to an end in 1986, the time was certainly right for a collaborative effort.

It proved to be worth the wait. Simply titled Trio, the album wound up spawning four top ten hits and selling over four million copies. Twelve years later, the ladies released Trio II, which won a Grammy – just like the original release. It was also certified Gold – no small feat as by 1999, Country Radio had pretty much refused to play anyone under the age of 50.

Now, almost two decades later, Rhino Records has released this three-disc set which combines what we know of the Trio sound…..along with much of what we have never heard before. The first two disc are remastered versions of the first two releases, and what’s amazing is how revolutionary the original album still sounds some three decades after its’ release. In a sense, you could say that the original Trio could be one of the first Americana albums. I think that would be an apt description. It was such a vast departure from the fully produced music that was coming from Nashville at the time – some of that from Parton herself. Songs like “Wildflowers” and “Those Memories Of You” still resonate with the simplicity and grace that they did in 1987.

Cover art courtesy Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris

Cover art courtesy Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris

The same could be said – although to a lesser extent – for the second disc. Originally recorded in 1994, the album – then and now – still sounds a little too mundane, a little too slow – at least for my tastes. (Especially, when comparing it to the original. There’s nothing with the bite of a “The Pain Of Loving You” or “My Dear Companion).” But, when three artists of such caliber get together, it is cause for celebration!

The jewel of this collection, however, is the third disc. A collection of unreleased cuts and outtakes from the original sessions, the disc proves once again just what legendary artists each are in their own right. Harris shines brightest on the rollicking “You Don’t Knock,” which benefits from a little bit of southern swagger, Parton takes front and center on the beautiful “A Handful of Dust,” which Patty Loveless fans might recall from her When Fallen Angels Fly album, and Linda sounds particularly moving on “In A Deep Sleep,” where she shows what a genius she was as a vocalist.

Reissues often don’t add anything new to the mix. But, in the case of The Complete Trio Collection, I wholeheartedly recommend it – regardless of how much you might have listened to either of the first two albums. The hidden gems on Disc Three are very much worth the purchase price alone – and, they do make you wonder what else might even be out there. But, for right now, I will take this and be very content with a unique piece of Country Music history!