"As a huge fan of Emmylous Harris and a frequent admirer of Linda Rondstadt, I snatched this disc up immediately. While I enjoyed their work with Dolly Parton on the "Trio" efforts--Parton still can, quite frankly, sing both these women into the ground, at least when she's not laying the sentimentality and schmaltz on too thick--I enjoy this album even more. That has to do both with the sublime song selection and with the gorgous arrangements--even tired old warhorses like "For a Dancer" and "Sisters of Mercy" sound fresh here, thanks, in part, to Glyn Johns' shimmering production. As always, Harris is a paragon of taste, brandishing her slightly cracked soprano with a grace that is breathtaking. Rondstadt, whose voice has deepened through the years, occassionally slips into thoughtless belting (always her downfall) but, for the most part, offers glorious tones that meld with Harris' to ravishing effect. Her version of Sinead O'Connor's "This is to Mother You" is absolutely lovely, one of the many highlights here. With backup from Neil Young and the McGarrigle sisters, and additional songs from Bruce Springsteen, Patty Griffin, Patti Sciafla, and Roseanne Cash, this is that rare album: tasteful, exciting, heartfelt and lavish all at once. I cannot recommend this highly enough."
Maudeen Wachsmith | Port Townsend, WA | 08/26/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being a longtime Linda Ronstadt fan, as well as a very devoted Emmylou Harris fan, I anxiously awaited this CD from the time I heard it was being done. When I heard of all the wonderful songwriters contributing to the CD, I was even more excited. Now, after four listens, I am ready to make a few comments but let me first say, I love the CD. The choice of songs is interesting and intelligent and I don't care if there's not a top-40 song on it. I like it and would guess other like-minded people will enjoy it as well. Unlike the recent Trio II CD where my favorite cuts were where Emmylou sang lead, there are several cuts where she sings harmony that I like just as well. Probably my favorite cut is RAISE THE DEAD where Emmylou's vocals are particularly strong. FOR A DANCER (written by Jackson Browne) is fabulous. I'm so glad to hear Linda's voice hasn't diminished in all these years and am also glad to see them recording a song of her old buddy Browne. LOVING THE HIGHWAY MAN, the first cut on the CD, isn't my favorite but perhaps just because I have to turn down the volume about 20 second into the song! It was interesting to note Emmylou's ex-husband, Paul Kennerley on back-up vocals. And note he actually wrote HE WAS MINE, another great cut with lead vocals by Linda. The title track, WESTERN WALL, a composition by the talented Rosanne Cash is very nicely done with Linda and Emmylou alternating on lead vocals. 1917 is an interesting song by a songwriter I'm not very familiar with, Paul Olney. I note he has also penned other songs covered by Emmylou and this is an interesting arrangement with a Spanish flair, even though the lyrics allude to a French theme. I would be interested in knowing the background of this hauntingly beautiful song.SWEET SPOT initially was my least favorite cut off the CD, but even that's growing on me the more I listen. FALLING DOWN is another one I don't care much for -- more the arrangement and the background music overtaking the vocals. Much more likely to appeal to my teenagers than myself, I'm afraid.Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Springsteen's songwriting skills add a depth to the CD with Patti's VALERIE and The Boss' ACROSS THE BORDER. Both are a welcome addition to the CD. SISTERS OF MERCY shows the genuis of Leonard Cohen but I'm not that excited about the arrangement. Perhaps this will grow on me as well - I'd like it too.Sinead O'Connor is an underestimated talent. Her songwriting skills are quite apparent in THIS IS TO MOTHER YOU. What a beautiful song. Another favorite. ALL I LEFT BEHIND is one of the highlights of the CD. Written by Emmylou along with Kate and Anna McGarrigle with leads by Emmylou and harmony by Linda as wellas Kate and Anna, it reminds me of early Emmylou, and I couldn't be happier to hear something like this on the CD. All in all, an outstanding CD ( did I ever have any doubt about this?)."
An instant classic
Tim Stanard | New York City | 11/29/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've been a Linda Ronstadt fan for about 20 years (more than half my life), but even I was astounded by the beauty and simplicity of this collaboration. As much as I enjoyed the two Trio albums, this surpasses them in its emotional heft and pure listening enjoyment. A little bit bluegrass, a little bit avant-garde, it's a truly new, original sound -- and that is so difficult to come by in the current cookie-cutter music business. Linda and Emmylou's voices have also never sounded better!"
The Voices of Angels
Steve Vrana | Aurora, NE | 03/27/2000
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Two of the best vocalists (note the absence of gender qualification) to be found in any genre. And Ronstadt and Harris have surrounded themselves with a stellar supporting cast: Bernie Leadon, Andy Fairweather Low, the McGarrigle Sisters, Neil Young, et. al. Top notch songwriters, too: Jackson Browne, Rosanne Cash, Leonard Cohen and Bruce Springsteen. Even Harris turns in some strong compositions, including the haunting "Raise the Dead." While the songs lyrics make pointed references to Hank WIlliams, Sam Cooke, Bill Monroe and Robert Johnson, the chorus ("I'll never get out of your love alive") has Gram Parsons written all over it.Some of the tracks ("Loving the Highway Man," "Falling Down") continue the genre-bending approach of Harris's 1995 Wrecking Ball. But most continue more in the vein of 1998's Trio II, which included Dolly Parton. There are sad story-songs ("1917"), songs of lost love ("For a Dancer," "Valerie"), and songs of hope and promise ("Across the Border"). But throughout you get to enjoy the achingly beautiful voices of Harris and Ronstadt. And then add Kate and Anna McGarrigle on tracks like "All I Left Behind" and you'll think you died and are listening to the voices of angels--heavenly! RECOMMENDED"
Climbing The Western Wall
Erik North | San Gabriel, CA USA | 01/29/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Given that together they have a combined total of nearly seventy years worth of experience, it is stunning that it took Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris this long to finally get together and actually make an album. The result was WESTERN WALL. And while it may not exactly be a perfect album, or even match what these two ladies achieved separately in the 1970s, it is definitely a distinct album. In no way, shape, or form could any listener mistake these two legendary women of country and rock for wanna-bes like Faith Hill or Shania Twain.As the title says, WESTERN WALL was recorded in Tucson, Arizona, which just so happens to be Linda's hometown. They surrounded themselves with really good songs and songwriters including Emmylou herself (I guess the only flaw in this respect is that Linda didn't try to write; she's more than capable). Although I've always been more of a fan of Linda's than Emmylou's, I can see why these two have been friends for as long as they have been. It shows every time their harmonies come together on songs from writers as diverse as Bruce Springsteen ("Across The Border"), Jackson Browne ("For A Dancer"), Sinead O'Connor ("This Is To Mother") and Patti Griffin ("Falling Down"). They get high-powered help from legendary producer Glyn Johns, and a whole truckload of musician friends: Greg Leisz, Bernie Leadon, Andy Fairweather-Low, and two appearances by their good friend Neil Young. among many others.The only real conventional cut on the album, though it's still classic in its own way, is "He Was Mine", by Emmylou's ex-husband Paul Kennerley, with Linda on lead vocals; it is an old-school country-rocker with Leisz on pedal steel guitar and Linda at her aching best, as if the clock turned back twenty-five years. Otherwise, however, this is NOT an album that deliberately caters to the masses; those expecting such an album are probably going to come away disappointed. If, however, you really appreciate an alternative to the safe stuff that has been cluttering both pop and country radio for a long time, feel free to climb this Wall. You won't be sorry that you did."