NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Anne Murray’s Friends & Legends Duets

Shania Twain and Martina McBride Are Guests on the Snowbird's New Album

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

The world could sorely use a bit of beauty just now, and I’ve found some. Anne Murray is releasing a gorgeous CD of duets with some of her favorite women singers, and it’s an absolute joy. Murray has quietly gone about her business for years of recording songs she loves and, along the way, has racked up an admirable country music chart history with such No. 1 country hits as “Could I Have This Dance,” “I Just Fall in Love Again” and “A Little Good News.” It’s hard now to believe that she first charted country in 1970 with “Snowbird.” How time flies.

Anne Murray Duets: Friends & Legends will be out Jan. 15 and I like it. Her roster of duet partners is pretty impressive, with such singers as Emmylou Harris, Celine Dion, Carole King, k.d. lang, Martina McBride, Nelly Furtado, Shania Twain, Shelby Lynne, Amy Grant, Celtic Woman, Indigo Girls and the late Dusty Springfield. It was produced by Phil Ramone, who is a classic himself.

The Celine Dion duet is from a live show in 1996 (but it’s a classic), Shania sent hers over from Switzerland (and it’s pretty damn good), and of course Dusty Springfield died in 1999, but what the hey, the music is in the groove here. Anne Murray still delivers the groceries.

This CD includes many signature Murray numbers. “Danny’s Song,” from the pen of Kenny Loggins and from Murray’s 1973 album of the same name, opens the album in a duet with McBride. The collection is a potent reminder of what an astute songpicker Murray has been over the years. Bob McDill’s “Somebody’s Always Saying Goodbye” has never sounded better than it does here, as sung by Murray and Jann Arden. The obligatory “Snowbird” gets new life from Murray with Sarah Brightman. Hard to believe that it was not a No. 1 hit. Nor was “You Needed Me,” which sounds spiffy here by Twain and Murray. And “A Little Good News,” done by Murray with Indigo Girls, will never go out of fashion.

“I Just Fall in Love Again” with the late, and great, Dusty Springfield is a real historical curiosity, in addition to being a lovely song. Springfield cut it on her 1979 album Living Without Your Love, on which she seemed to have been abandoned by her record label. It was a shoddy, cheap-sounding production, and it quickly vanished. But Murray cut the song and it hit the top of the country chart in 1979. For this current production, she duets with Springfield’s original vocal, and the result is impressive and a bit haunting.

Emmylou Harris and Murray bond like long-lost sisters on “Another Pot of Tea,” a Canadian song written as an Irish lament, which both had recorded on solo albums years earlier. Both albums were produced by Brian Ahern (who was, for a time, married to Harris).

Murray has had a quirky, very individualistic career. After being a hit on the originalGlen Campbell Goodtime Hour TV show, she declined the offer to move to L.A. and debase herself to achieve fleeting showbiz success. She stayed in Canada, having a family (she duets with her daughter Dawn Langstroth here on “Nobody Loves Me Like You Do”) and building a long career.

And she still sings like a bird — one with a very impressive lower register. When she recorded “Could I Have This Dance” for the soundtrack to the 1980 movie Urban Cowboy, she cut it in a lower register as a guide for a male singer partner, but the producers found no suitable male duet partner in time. So, she recorded a harmony for it, making it a duet with herself on the soundtrack. That got her a third Grammy. Here, she duets the song with Amy Grant, in a graceful pairing that transcends the movie’s association with the song, at least for me. Grant writes in the liner notes here, “I can’t remember the first time I heard Anne Murray’s voice, but I can remember the magical pull of the voice behind ’Snowbird’ from my childhood on — a velvety alto, no acrobatics, just a pure interpretation of beautiful songs.”

Grant goes on to say, “If my father-in-law, Stan Gill were still alive, I’m sure I would hear him say what I heard him say many times — ’You sound good, kid, but you’re no Anne Murray.'”