By the time Dolly Parton, Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt released the fourth single from their 1986 Trio LP, they had already hit Number One with a Fifties pop classic, “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” and scored Top Five hits with the folky Linda Thompson tune “Telling Me Lies,” and “Those Memories of You,” which was penned by Nashville Bluegrass Band banjo player Alan O’Bryant.
For the superstar threesome’s final single from Trio, they chose the delicate but defiant “Wildflowers,” one of the two songs Parton had written on the album (the other being “The Pain of Loving You,” the LP’s lead track, which she wrote with former duet partner Porter Wagoner). With spare instrumentation, spotlighting music legend David Lindley on autoharp, “Wildflowers” was vintage Parton autobiography, the tale of a “wild mountain rose needing freedom to grow.”
Thirty years later, a never-before-heard version of “Wildflowers” will be available as the original Trio album and its 1999 sequel are reissued, along with 20 bonus tracks of unreleased tunes and alternate takes. Accompanied by the just-released lyric video, this bonus version of “Wildflowers” is distinguished by a second verse on which Harris, rather than Parton, sings lead, after which Ronstadt takes the lead on the third verse. This alternate take relies a bit more on modern accompaniment rather than the old-time mountain instrumentation of the original, which is perhaps why it wasn’t chosen for the original LP. But one element that remains, however, is the magical three-part harmony the longtime friends shared on record and onstage.
The Complete Trio Collection will be released on September 9th, along with the 14-track sampler My Dear Companion: Selections From the Trio Collection.