Rodney Crowell (TN)
In the late 1980’s Rodney Crowell experienced, in his words, “fifteen minutes of major fame” as a mainstream country music star when his fabulously titled album, “Diamonds & Dirt”, yielded five #1 hits. His time in the big commercial spotlight didn’t always sit well with him, though – he felt like an intruder in a world where having to please radio station advertisers was the priority. This, in the end, turned out not to be his true aspiration (!). His work has only grown in sophistication and power ever since.
It is as an independent spirit and artist committed to creating great music (commercial and not) that has solidified Crowell’s place as a major player in the world of Americana roots music. His fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting has attracted the likes of Emmylou Harris, Waylon Jennings, Bob Seger and Keith Urban, to name a few. Sample any one of his own numerous recordings over a four decade plus career to realize hisstrengths as a songwriter – and to see how balances personal recollection, literary erudition, and a profound musical reach.
Crowell’s loyalty to American roots music was steadfast prior to his commercial success. Of that music he says, “It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it – Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell – share a common thread, and that thread is ‘poet’. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision.”
50 years since he first started playing in Houston garage bands, Rodney Crowell might be considered a musical elder statesman, but that vision, uncompromising spirit, and singular voice remains strong. In a song from his latest recording “Close Ties”– It Ain’t Over Yet, Crowell collaborates with ex-wife Rosanne Cash and John Paul White. “I don’t care what you think you heard / We’re still learning how to fly,” he sings, and Cash answers with “I’ve known you forever and ever it’s true / If you came by it easy you wouldn’t be you.”