Asylum ends wait for trio's second set

By Deborah Evans Price (Billboard)

NASHVILLE (BPI): Ever since Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris recorded their acclaimed Trio album in 1987, aficionados of that sweet harmony have been waiting for the highly touted follow-up. Asylum Records will issue Trio II Feb. 9, and the label is definitely taking the road less traveled in marketing the project.

Asylum president Evelyn Shriver says the label doesn't plan to promote a single to country radio but is instead working a single at AC radio and will concentrate on creating awareness through media and a strong push at retail.

"Our whole advertising campaign is going to be: 'the album you've waited years to hear,'" she says.

According to Harris, she, Parton and Ronstadt enjoyed working on the first album and had been trying for years to do a second one. "We always loved the first record, and we got together again, thinking we could deal with those scheduling things. We did get another one finished," Harris says of the project, which was actually completed four years ago, "but we weren't able to promote it. So we sort of just let it lie around. Then we finally just said, 'Oh, let's just put it out. We won't worry about the fact that we can't tour [behind] it, just let it have whatever kind of life it's going to have on its own.'"

When asked if they were at all concerned about following up the success of the first one, Harris replies, "Not really, it's not like we were trying to do anything different. We just like to sing together."

Harris says each brought songs to the table and voted on the songs they liked. "It was a fun process," she says. "Once we got the songs picked, it was just a matter of everybody singing the songs in different groupings with different voices and different people singing lead.

"There are some beautiful songs on here. There's a lovely Carter Family song, and there's a version of [Neil Young's] 'After The Gold Rush' which is quite extraordinary. I have a particular favorite, 'When We're Gone,' which finishes the album. It was written by a couple of my favorite artists and songwriters, Jamie O'Hara and Kieran Kane."

With the popularity of female singers in ascendency, the pioneering trio members' project would seem ripe for mass acceptance, but Harris is hesitant to peg the project's appeal to a cultural trend. "I think there was an audience for the Trio back on the first one," she says, "and hopefully there will be a little more now. I don't know that it will particularly be because we're women or just because of the type of music."

Shriver says Asylum plans to try unique approaches in marketing. "I'm trying to find the audience and not just depend on traditional ways of doing things," she says. "So we we'll do a big mailing to coffee houses."

Shriver adds that the label is also investigating other options. "We're going to do a mailing to women's bookstores," she says. "Who knew that there were any? But there are. There are hundreds of them. We are also going to do graffiti advertising in women's restrooms."

Media exposure will be a key component, and Shriver says the label plans to generate maximum visibility. "We're going to do a two-hour satellite TV tour going into major markets," she says. "We'll do heavy-duty television publicity opportunities from 'The Tonight Show' to the 'Today' show as well."

Tower Records Nashville general manager Jon Kerlikowske predicts that the album will do well. 'I expect there to be a lot of interest in it," he says. "Emmylou is just coming off a great project with Spyboy, and I think the Trio album will do well, especially if they get a lot of upfront publicity to let people know it's out there."

Since there are no plans for the three to tour together, Shriver says, there will be other opportunities to let consumers know the project is available. "It's turning into a real grass-roots campaign because, I think, the music is so authentic that we need to build it from that level up."

Shriver says there will be no new videos but that she plans to encourage CMT, TNN and VH1 to dust off the videos from the first album and play them again.