During our recent conversation about the selection process for “Old Yellow Moon,” his new record with long-time friend and musical collaborator Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell said they chose the 12 songs because they were timeless, but not in an oldies kind of way.
“It's sort of intentional, but not something we belabored,” he said. “We don't want to be an oldies outfit.”
The songs stand out because they are beautiful and perfectly interpreted by two of country music’s best.
Patti Scialfa (Mrs. Bruce Springsteen)
Oh, mama there's this Spanish dancer
Whose steps I follow when he comes near
The red dress of temptation
Over a long black slip of fear
Harris' voice, like a good wine, has improved with age. Her reading of the lyrics make the world stand still for three minutes and 47 seconds.
“Open Season on My Heart”
Here's to the corners yet to turn
Here's to the bridges yet to burn
Here's to the whole thing blown apart
It's open season on my heart
It's hard to top a Rodney Crowell heartbreak song. Think “Ashes by Now” and “After All This Time.” Add the perfect harmony Harris brings to the music and Tommy (Waco) Spurlock's steel guitar and, well, it's perfect.
“Back When We Were Beautiful”
I guess you had to be there, she said,
you had to be
She handed me a yellowed photograph
And then said, see
This was my greatest love,
my one and only love
And this was me
Back when we were beautiful
If that verse isn't enough to make you pay attention, you need to stop and smell the roses. I was in the newsroom at deadline when it came on my headphones and time stood still. Harris and Crowell get this one so right.
The music is pared down to a piano, bass, B-3 organ and mandocello, leaving room for the story and vocals to shine through.
When I said I thought this was a very special cover, Crowell noted, “Something happened there, didn't it?”
I hope they recreate the magic at their Sept. 14 show in Dallas.
Not for nothing has Crowell been called the Roy Orbison of country music. In “Dreaming My Dreams,” by Allen Reynolds, his voice, of which he has complete command, takes this waltz to a new place.
Again, Harris brings just the right melancholy to her part. Spurlock's dreamy steel work sets a nostalgic tone, sending the listener on a journey through bittersweet memories.
There are a few rollicking songs on the record, too. “Hanging Up My Heart” by Hank DeVito is the first cut and sets a dance hall scene. Harris puts some true cowgirl twang in the delivery while Crowell and Vince Gill provide a solid floor with their backup vocals.
Roger Miller's “Invitation To The Blues” will transport you straight to the Grand Ole' Opry. The steel work of Paul Franklin and fiddle sound of Larry Franklin are spot on and make you want to scoot a boot around the room in a honky tonk.
From the sound of “Chase the Feeling,” Crowell and Harris had a large time recording Kris Kristofferson’s tune. Hard to make happy music about addiction, but they do it.
In addition to “Open Season on My Heart,” Crowell penned three other songs on the record. “Bluebird Wine” celebrates the blush of new love. “Here We Are” tells the story of love rediscovered. “Bull Rider” pays homage to the brave men who put their lives on the line for eight seconds in the rodeo arena.
The title track, written by Lynn Langham and Hank DeVito, closes out the record. Langham plays piano on the track, enriching the already simple, quietly beautiful tune. Crowell and Harris are in great voice, feeling each lyric, creating yet another perfect picture with words and music. It's as if these two were destined to sing together – and our lives are so much the richer for their pairing.
When I commented that their voices have improved with age, Crowell said, “I'm glad you said that. I think in the last couple of years, we [have] really sounded good together.”
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