By Helen Jerome
There’s a seam of joy and intensity running through Crowell’s new heartfelt record
2. Somebody Loves You
3. Loving You Is the Only Way to Fly
4. You're Supposed to Be Feeling Good
5. No Place to Fall
6. Oh Miss Claudia
7. Everything at Once (feat. Jeff Tweedy)
8. Ever the Dark
9. Making Lovers Out of Friends
10. Ready to Move On
If you want authenticity with ambition, then Rodney Crowell is your man. The award-winning Texan has taken himself outside his Nashville comfort zone to make this latest album in Chicago, enlisting the work of Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy on production.
Eight newly written songs plus a couple of old favourites jostle for attention, with Tweedy obviously relishing being around a living legend who connects directly to his own country songwriting idols.
Crowell hits the ground running with ‘Lucky’, propelled by rambunctious, joyful honky tonk piano as he sings of his fortune in finding the right life partner. “If I hadn’t had you by my side / I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
The album’s centrepiece boasts an almost time-travelling slice of music with lovely organ twisting its way through. ‘You're Supposed to Be Feeling Good’ cleverly reinvents an old Emmylou Harris track Crowell wrote when he was a member of her legendary Hot Band.
Its twin, ‘No Place to Fall’, has delicate warmth in its nod back to his friend and hero, the late, great Townes Van Zandt. ‘Oh Miss Claudia’ has an acoustic rock ‘n’ roll feel, framed like a laidback Lloyd Price doing ‘Lawdy Miss Clawdy’ with Fats Domino.
Co-written with Tweedy, key track ‘Everything at Once’ might be a sly reference to the award-winning movie, and opens up a totally new phase in the album. Jaunty guitars soar, and Crowell’s vocals twin with the Wilco front man – much like Roy Orbison and Jeff Lynne throwing their lot in with the Travelling Wilburys.
There’s a seam of joy and intensity running through Crowell’s heartfelt record, and he leaves the most personal song ‘Ready to Move’ ‘til last. Reminiscent of Johnny Cash in his later years, when he carved out something fresh with Rick Rubin, it’s a half-spoken number that feels all the more intense in its delivery.
Hopefully this album is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Crowell and Tweedy…
The Chicago Sessions is out on Friday May 5 via New West Records.