Eloquent Country Poet
Rodney Crowell has been doing this for a while. In fact, his career has been so long and varied that you have to specify exactly which “this” you’re talking about. There’s the record-making, which dates back to 1978 (when he released Ain’t Living Long Like This), peaked commercially a decade later (with Diamonds & Dirt, which yielded five number-one country hits), and has only grown in sophistication and power in recent years. There’s the fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger (who famously covered “Shame On the Moon”) to Keith Urban (who had a number-one hit with “Making Memories of Us”). And then there’s the autobiographical writing, which extends beyond the music world to a memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, which was published in 2011.
With his new music, Crowell both demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. His writing is at once his most intimate and his most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter—and be entered by—life.
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them. “The interesting thing about that garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to ‘Honky Tonkin’’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Cream. That was the beauty of it, that all of that existed side by side.” Crowell finds himself going back to that music, but also going even earlier. “Recently, I think—I hope—that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music. Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players, connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get back there.”
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“…making the best music of his career.” -NY Daily News
“Haunted is a good word to describe “Kin,” which features a dazzling cross-section of vocal personalities, including Norah Jones…and his ex-wife Rosanne Cash.” –The Seattle Times
“An improbable collaboration between a poet (Mary Karr) and a songsmith (Rodney Crowell)…“Kin” yields a wealth of winking new country odes.” –NY Daily News