Reviews

Rodney Crowell’s Texas


By Brian Rock

Living legend Rodney Crowell returns to his Texas roots on the aptly named, Texas. After several consecutive albums of introspective ballads, Crowell lets down his hair for a looser, more buoyant collection of songs. He even calls in an all-star assembly of musical friends to sing the praises of the Lone Star Stare; including Willie Nelson, Lee Ann Womack, Vince Gill, Billy Gibbons, Lyle Lovett and surprisingly, Ringo Starr.

“Flatland Hillbillies,” for example starts off with a drum roll call to attention and launches right into a funky, Southern Culture on the Skids style groove as he sings about the people of the panhandle region. Giving you a glimpse of the region, Crowell sings, “If you never ran a trout line, never skinned an eight-point buck, never had a squirrel meat sandwich, I guess you’re just out of luck.”

Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top makes his influence felt in the bluesy “56 Fury.” With crunchy guitar chords and heavy lead guitar licks, it is a prime example of the style of Texas Blues that ZZ Top helped popularize in the 70s and 80s. Crowell taps that same Blues influence for “You’re Only Happy When You’re Miserable,” and the Ray Wyle Hubbard influenced “Caw Caw Blues.”

“Deep In The Heart Of Uncertain Texas,” is a ¾ time waltz through the hill country. Over the strains of mandolin and fiddle, Crowell and guests, Ronnie Dunn, Willie Nelson, and Lee Ann Womack, sing of life’s simple joys as “we get high on the lake and we float down the river, get off on the back roads, get lost in the woods…”

Crowell also explores musical styles from the other side of the Texas state line. From the Appalachian roots Country of “Brown & Root, Brown & Root” to the Nashville Country/Rock of “What You Gonna Do Now,” to the Tennessee Bluegrass of “Treetop Slim & Billy Lowgrass,” to the New Orleans piano Jazz of “I’ll Show Me,” Crowell borrows from the diverse Americana catalog to tell his uniquely Texas stories.

The album ends with a ten-gallon hat tip to the dry lands of West Texas in “Texas Drought Part 1.” Featuring Crowell’s trademark adult-album-alternative melodies, he pays tribute to Texan’s seemingly annual struggle against the dry season where even, “The dust in the birdbath is out of control.”

Overall, Rodney Crowell goes big to honor “Texas,” with his most textured and satisfying album in years.

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Brian Rock

Brian Rock

Brian was raised gypsy style, moving every other year until well after college. As friendships proved to be temporary, Brian found a constant companion in music, wearing the grooves off Beatles and Dylan albums before moving on to Lyle Lovett and Dwight Yokam. Living so often in flux, he has come to value music and lyrics of lasting quality. Not moved by trends or fashion, he is drawn to timeless lyrics and soulful rhythms. Although now settled down, Brian still expresses his gypsy spirit through his writing. He has co-written songs with musician friends he’s met along the way, including several contributions to the 2012 ICMA Album of the Year, Family Album. Brian also writes children’s books and poems, including the Children’s Book Council featured title, The Deductive Detective.
Brian Rock

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