Flyinshoes Review

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RODNEY CROWELL —CLOSE TIES (New West)

 

www.rodneycrowell.com

 

www.NewWestRecords.com

 

 

Americana singer-songwriter, Houston-born and long-time Nashville resident Rodney Crowell has been among the finest, and for periods near untouchable when it comes to his art. Crowell’s take of Americana country is honest and true. His lyrics cut to the bone as he bears his heart and soul, and with him critical of negative actions he has taken in life it could be argued he is on occasions a hard on himself as he reflects on a colourful past. Cultivated on long friendships with fellow singer-songwriters Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt he learnt well from the masters.  

 

Ever since Emmylou Harris covered his songs ‘Till I Gain Control Again” and “Bluebird Wine” plus a co-writer with Harris, “Amarillo” on her first two albums (Elite Hotel and Pieces Of The Sky) on Warner Brothers his talent has been treasured by many. Close Ties is something of a rocky journey as it stubs its toes on a couple of occasions as his material, though well meant falter. His song about  Guy Clark’s wife, Susanna (“Life Without Susanna”) as he tries to explain how his feelings towards her changed after the death of Townes Van Zandt died took a lot of plays before I felt comfortable with it. It is like Crowell is torn between the helplessness he suffered as she became distant, and despite his best efforts was unable to open the door to her emotions. A door that previously had always been open.

 

“Eastern Houston Blues” kicks off Crowell’s first solo album in three years, it follows Tarpaper Sky (2014) and his duet album with his former boss when he was a member of the famed Hot Band, “The Travellin’ Kind” (2015) Harris. Crowell claims he is singing the best he has ever done and with the likes of his collaboration with his one-time wife, Rosanne Cash and the incredible John Paul White on “It Ain’t Over Yet” (plus harmonica ace Mickey Raphael drops by to add some additional flavours). JPW seems to be involved in most good things happening in genre at present and this is not by accident!  

The album is bulging with class acts in Jedd Hughes, Michael Rhodes, Steuart Smith, Jordan Lehning, Audley Freed, Fred Eltringham, Lex Price, Ian Fitchuk, Jim Oblon, Jerry Roe, Chris Leuzinger and Richard Bennett plus guitarist Tommy Emmanuel on “East Houston Blues”. Plus you have vocalist Sheryl Crow duet on the moody “I’m Tied To Ya’. It’s nice enough but doesn’t match up to understated gem “Forgive Me Annabelle”, reason being Crowell’s vocals are warmed stylishly by the minimal support. With Mitchell on piano, especially during the early part the lyrics are underlined beautifully. “Forty Miles From Nowhere” has a sombre, but not overly so feel. In fact it is quite pretty, it is one of those songs someone else could take if good enough and reshape.

On “Forty Miles From Nowhere” eases along in typical Crowell fashion and it’s a good tune, but comes second to the likes of the more urgent “Storm Warning” as he speaks of a tornado alley and the destruction caused. “Nashville 1972” has him recall the days when he was but a struggling songwriter try to makes ends meet and learn the trade, and with more about Guy and Susanna and old school Nashville in Harlan Howard, Bob McDill and Tom T. Hall to go with mention of a certain Willie Nelson make it a winner. One of the best songs on the record it ends the album on high.        

 

                                                            Maurice Hope        

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Year 2016

1
Levi Parham
90 pts.
These American Blues
Music Road Records
GC,JBO,TK
2
Martha Fields
86 pts.
Southern White Lies
Independent
BP,BH,FB,JAB,RW,SP
3
Carter Sampson
75 pts.
Wilder Side
Independent/CRS
AN,CRS,JB
4
Anna Elizabeth Laube
65 pts.
Tree
Ahh...Pockets! Records
DH,NC
5
Michael McDermott
60 pts.
Willow Springs
Pauper Sky Records
BK,MM
6
Shovels & Rope
54 pts.
Little Seeds
New West
 
7
Robert Ellis
53 pts.
Robert Ellis
New West Records
DHO
8
Sturgill Simpson
52 pts.
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth
Atlantic Records
JJ,JF
9
Douglas Greer
50 pts.
Baja Louisiana
Zilker Park Records
HDB,ML
10
Lucinda Williams
46 pts.
The Ghosts Of Highway 20
Highway 20 Records
EM
11
Buddy Miller & Friends
44 pts.
Cayamo Sessions at Sea
New West Records
 
12
Wink Burcham
43 pts.
Cleveland Summer Nights
Continental Song City
 
13
Eric Brace & Peter Cooper
42 pts.
C&O Canal
Red Beet Records
BR
14
Brent Cobb
41 pts.
Shine On A Rainy Day
Elektra Records
HH
 
Daniel Romano
41 pts.
Mosey
New West
CVL
 
Leonard Cohen
41 pts.
You Want it Darker
Sony Music
HO
17
Christian Kjellvander
40 pts.
A Village: Natural Light
Tapete Records
BM
18
Drive-By Truckers
39 pts.
American Band
ATO Records
AR,EZ
19
Birds of Chicago
38 pts.
Real Midnight
Five Head Entertainment
LM,SZ
20
John Prine
37 pts.
For Better, or Worse
Oh Boy Records
FS,MB
21
The Cactus Blossoms
36 pts.
You’re Dreaming
Red House Records
GS,HD
22
Richmond Fontaine
35 pts.
You Can’t Go Back
Décor Records
FCE
23
Gillian Welch
34 pts.
Boots No.1: The Official Revival Bootleg
Acony Records
LK,PR,TJ
24
Sarah Jarosz
33 pts.
Undercurrent
Sugar Hill
RM
25
Joe Purdy
32 pts.
Who Will Be Next?
Mudtown Crier Records
AL
 
The Devil Makes Three
32 pts.
Redemption & Ruin
New West

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