Rodney Crowell, who gained fame during country’s New Traditional era of the 1980s, has always drawn from his personal life for inspiration. He doubled down on that on his 2001 album The Houston Kid and continued a decade later in his autobiography Chinaberry Sidewalks.
This new album continues that approach. Co-producers Jordan Lehning and Kim Buie enhanced Crowell’s storytelling by framing him within a minimalist sound, occasionally boosting it with a string quartet arranged by Lehning, who plays occasional guitar. Rosanne Cash (Crowell’s ex-wife) and John Paul White add vocals to the reflective “It Ain’t Over Yet.”
Crowell and Lehning’s guitars push “Life Without Susanna,” a powerful lament about the 2012 passing of Susanna Clark, wife of singer/songwriter Guy Clark. Crowell and guitarist Chris Leuzinger team for “Nashville 1972,” a nostalgic memoir of the singer’s early days in town. Tommy Emmanuel’s fingerpicking enhances “East Houston Blues” and Richard Bennett appears on the low-keyed “Forty Miles From Nowhere.”
Guitarist Steuart Smith, a frequent Crowell collaborator, enhances numerous tracks. He and guitarist Jim Oblon create the ominous framework for “Storm Warning,” which Crowell co-wrote with Mary Carr. Lehning, Oblon, and Smith generate the full-bodied backing for “I Don’t Care Anymore.”
This article originally appeared in VG‘s June ’17 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.