Author Archives: Leeann Ward

Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Can’t Be Really Gone”

Despite the dated keys, light swells of synthesizers and layered background vocals, “Can’t Be Really Gone” manages to be McGraw’s most compelling single to that point in his career both in content and performance.

Unlike “Don’t Take the Girl”, “Can’t Be Really Gone” doesn’t have to pull out any stops of overwrought heartstring pulls to pack a good punch. In fact, it straightforwardly captures the feeling of disbelief that accompanies a surreal event like having somebody in your life one minute and then the next minute trying to comprehend the knowledge that he or she is gone.  In this case, little details of everything still in their places, including a book that is almost completely read, only heighten the disbelief and denial of this man’s situation.

Until this single, McGraw sang with an exaggerated twang that often threatened to sound more silly than serious. His quiet, melancholy vocal performance on this record, however, demonstrates that he is capable of properly interpreting a song when it is necessary, which is something that he gets even better at proving as his career progresses.

Written by Gary Burr

Grade: B+

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CU Roundtable Review: The Band Perry, “All Your Life”

Listen:

All My Life

Leeann Ward:

As wrong as it may be, the consistently gorgeous arrangements and Kimberly Perry’s compelling vocals almost make up for the lyrical deficiencies found on The Band Perry’s debut album. As it has been with all their singles so far, The Band Perry’s story of style being greater than substance continues with this promising group’s latest single as well.

With its acoustic based instrumentation, Kimberly’s pretty vocals and a sing-able melody, “All My Life” sounds like a typical love song on the surface. The girl isn’t asking for everything, just that the object of her obsession (check out the song’s bridge) loves her all his life. As it was with “If I Die Young”, however, the sentiment of the song makes perfect sense, but the nitty gritty of the lyrics are somewhat distorted or, perhaps, too fanciful. While there’s nothing wrong with asking if someone will love you all your life, it’s baffling how jars of sand or fireflies in a lamp delivered by someone in a tux proves anything.    Grade: B

Tara Seetharam:

Not unlike the band’s previous three singles, “All Your Life” has an earthy sparkle that makes it hard to easily dismiss: it feels as earnest as a Taylor Swift song and sounds as charmingly simple as a Dixie Chicks song circa 1999. But the lyrics teeter between sleepy and trite, with Kimberly’s sprightly vocal nuances –at once natural, textured and emotive– serving as the most interesting part of the “love” story.

That is, until the vanilla turns to rocky road two and a half minutes in. Just as the piano-driven breakdown of “You Lie” is enough to keep me from switching the station, “All Your Life” delivers a sucker punch with an eerie, twisted bridge, sonically and lyrically: “You could be the centerpiece of my obsession if you would notice me at all.” In retrospect, the confession gives the rest of the song an intriguing and slightly psychotic undertone – you get the feeling Kimberly wants to follow up benign lyrics like “Would you walk to the end of the ocean just to fill my jar with sand?” with “Well, would you? WOULD YOU?”

And just like that, with a little injection of campiness, the song comes to life.  Grade: B

Jonathan Keefe:

Their singles have really been all over the place, haven’t they? “Hip to My Heart” was just wretched, but “If I Die Young” was a once-in-a-career kind of hit. “You Lie” fell on the wrong side of just all right, and now “All Your Life” is a bit better than average.

The melody, especially in the refrain, is the real selling point here, and the light-handed arrangement and solid vocal harmonies help to make this one a pleasant listen. Still, a couple of nicely turned phrases in each verse aren’t enough to overcome the song’s fundamental cliches, and Kimberly Perry wanders off pitch more than a couple of times.

The bigger issue for me is that the single lacks a strong hook: “All Your Life” needed one standout line or distinctive production flourish to make it something more than just kind-of pretty. Grade: B-

Kevin John Coyne:

There are a lot of things that work about the Band Perry.  I’m not hearing much of them on this particular track.

I love the bridge breakdown that recalls Nickel Creek at their trippiest, and I genuinely appreciate a country single actually sounding country.

But the lyrics and the vocal performances?  Pure amateur hour.    Grade: C-

Dan Milliken:

As others are noting, two things click: 1) The organic arrangement; 2) The cool bridge, which uses minor tonality better than any country single in recent memory.

Otherwise, though, it sounds like something Colbie Caillat would have written as a teenager. The case of Kimberly is a weird matter, too – certainly she’s got range, but you get a lot of ungainly pronunciations like “o-SHUH–hun.” Eh.   Grade: C+

Ben Foster:

I love The Band Perry’s sound and style, as well as Kimberly’s voice, so I would definitely like to be pulling for them.  The lyrics are where they tend to lose me.  In this case, the deficiencies don’t come in the form of the wonky, off-beat “I oughta kill you right now and do the whole wide world a service” Band Perry kind of way.  It’s just kind of blah, and a bit on the cheesy side.  The bridge is more interesting, but I still don’t like how the song lets me sit through two boring verses before it makes any real attempt to engage me in the lyrics.

And yet, I still find the restrained country-bluegrassy arrangement so absorbing.  While Kimberly’s vocal performance is not technically perfect, I still find it compelling and believable in its own way (and preferable to the buzzy, processed auto-tune effects that I hear on other artists’ records).  Overall, the single is good enough that I’ll probably come back to listen periodically, but I would still like to see the band making greater artistic strides with their lyrics on future releases.  Without a solid lyric that’s strong from start to finish, they’re still one base shy of a home run.  Grade:  B-

Written by Brian Henningsen and Clara Henningsen

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Single Review: Vince Gill, “Threaten Me With Heaven”

From his upcoming fall album release, Guitar Slinger, Vince Gill releases a quiet song that gorgeously portrays a man who is at peace with his impending death. While his loved ones are distraught from the thought of losing him, he assures them that he is not afraid of the prospect and, in fact, welcomes it:

“What’s the worst thing that can happen / What’s the worst that they can do?/ Threaten me with Heaven / It’s all they can do / Threaten me with Heaven / if they want to / Threaten me with Heaven, I believe that it’s true / Threaten me with Heaven, I’ll be waiting on you.”

His wife, Amy Grant, may be the official Christian/gospel singer in the family, but Brother Vince could easily stand right alongside her in such a capacity of he so chose, as his rousing “Nothing but the Blood of Jesus” and “Rock of Ages” performances with Grant, from her hymns albums, can legitimately testify. While “Threaten Me with Heaven” is much more understated than those gospel favorites, it’s a powerful testament of faith to which people can either possibly relate or envy.

Similar in sound to his inspiring “What You Give Away”, “Threaten Me with Heaven” hosts a heartfelt vocal, tasteful guitar support and a gospel choir that enriches the tone of the song. As a result, the single is more adult contemporary than pure country, but it is beautifully sung and arranged nonetheless.

Written by Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Dillon O’Brien & Will Owsley

Grade: A

Listen:  Threaten Me With Heaven


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Retro Single Review: Tim McGraw, “Don’t Take the Girl”

1994 | Peak: #1

After the loud, thumping, controversial nature of “Indian Outlaw”, it’s a good thing that Tim McGraw had another trick in his bag to be found on that second album, which needed to be successful after his debut album, as he has stated, “went wood.” There’s little doubt that the sappy, three act single is what catapulted McGraw’s status to the superstar level that he’s enjoyed since.

The story goes from an eight-year-old Johnny begging his father not to include “the Girl” in their fishing outing to the same boy, now a young man, willing to do anything to protect the, presumably, same girl. the simplistic pull-at-the-heartstrings story song was not the type of single that was dominating country music at the time of its early mid-nineties release. What’s more, McGraw’s early exaggerated twang and an amped up production to match helped to make the sing-able song even more attractive to country music listeners whose emotions had been easily stirred by the touching story of Johnny and “the girl” with no name.

Patriarchal implications aside, “Don’t Take the Girl” was a perfect recipe for a quick heart melting experience. And while it is likely considered one of McGraw’s signature songs that must be sung at every concert to this day, it is too simplistic and, ultimately, predictable to have a lasting effect beyond the first few experiences of hearing it. Instead, it’s become more of a cringe inducer than a tear jerker.

Written by Craig Martin & Larry Johnson

Grade: B

Listen: Don’t Take the Girl

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Album Review: Blake Shelton, Red River Blue

Blake Shelton

Red River Blue

It’s hard to dispute that Blake Shelton possesses one of the strongest and distinctive male voices in country music today. Likewise, he has proven to be a more than capable interpreter of the songs that he writes and chooses to record. He knows when to sing with soft sensitivity and he knows when to sing loud and hard.

However, his interpretive abilities and vocal prowess does not always translate into the highest quality songs, as has been the major weakness of his last few projects, particularly Startin’ Fires and his two “six-paks.” The trend continues with Red River Blue, even though this album is a solid improvement.

The album wisely kicks things off with the popular lead single, the mid-tempo “Honey Bee.” The positive tune sets the tone for the remainder of the album, which reflects where Shelton is in his life thanks to a finally-exploding career and newly-married status to Miranda Lambert.

Among the other mid-tempos, the bluesy “Ready to Roll” is the most straight arrow. Its rolling baseline is pleasant, infectious and completely inoffensive. “Drink on It” is also a bit bluesy, but carries the line “He sounds like such a prick,” which turns out to be the song’s only memorable aspect. Continuing on the status quo scale, “Good Ole Boys” is pretty much summed up by its title: “Where did all the good ole boys go?” Apparently, good ole boys are synonymous with country boys who are the only people who are polite and hold doors for women and say “Yes, Ma’am.” Shelton’s infamous offbeat humor shows up at the end of the track when he banters, “I’ll even go pick up some of those feminine products for you. That’s what a good ole boy would do.” While the lyrics are inane, the Jennings-influenced arrangement is one of the most sonically satisfying on the album.

As he’s proven on previous albums, some of Shelton’s most memorable and brightest moments are when he fully embraces the ridiculous, which shows up in the form of “Hey” and “Get Some” this time around. Both songs have delightfully funky lyrics and interesting productions. “Hey” more successfully illustrates country living than many other songs of its ilk, the random “baby Jesus” reference notwithstanding. The premise of the charming “Get Some” is reminiscent of Toby Keith’s “Getcha Some”, but with a toned down, tasteful production that showcases engaging honky tonk piano and acoustic guitar solos.

While Shelton has proven capable of elevating substandard songs to higher levels in the past, he is not able to work his magic on most of the ballads on this album. Despite reliably stellar vocals on songs like the quality “Over,” decent comeuppance ballad “I’m Sorry” and the schmaltzy “God Gave Me You,” the tracks are all but ruined by tasteless eighties guitar solos and drum machines that turn them into power ballads rather than good country songs.

Not all of the ballads are mired in bombastic productions, however. In fact, not only does “Red River Blue” make a cool album title, the song with its name happens to be the standout track as well. Because it’s the quietest song on the album, tucked away at the end (not counting the two bonus tracks that include the island-flavored “Chill” and a cover of Dan Seals’ “Addicted), it’s easy to overlook its strength. Along with a subtle production, Miranda Lambert’s quiet background support helps to solidify the song’s mournful tone.

The songs on this album are more than well performed, but the album as a whole is weighed down by some blandness and far too many overwrought productions. While this album is a definite step back in the right direction from Shelton’s last three projects, it still has a long way to go to equal the quality of his first four.

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iPod Playlist: Originals And Covers

As I’m sure the rest of you do, I make playlists all the time. Many of them are lists of individual artists, but some of them have a concept.

My latest playlist is of covers. First, I have the original version (or the one that’s famous for being the original) followed by my favorite cover of it. My only rule is that I have to like both versions. So, songs where I like the cover but not the original won’t make the list.

I’ll share a sampling of what I have so far, as long as you share your latest or greatest concept playlist in the comments:

1. Buddy Miller, “Somewhere Trouble Don’t Go” (Miranda Lambert)
2. Hank Williams, “Hey, Good Lookin’” (The Mavericks)
3. Elvis Presley, “Suspicious Minds (Dwight Yoakam)
4. Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors (Shania Twain/Alison Krauss)
5. Waylon Jennings, “Dreaming My Dreams with You” (Alison Krauss and Union Station)
6. Johnny Cash, “Understand Your Man” (Dwight Yoakam)
7. Merle Haggard, “The Way I Am” (Alan Jackson)
8. John Prine, “That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round” (Miranda Lambert)
9. John Anderson, “Swingin’” (LeAnn Rimes)
10. Buddy Miller, “Don’t Tell Me” (Alicia Nugent)
11. Kasey Chambers, “Pony” (Ashley Monroe)
12. Tammy Wynette, “Stand by Your Man” (Dixie Chicks)
13. Bill Monroe, “Blue Moon of Kentucky” (John Fogerty)
14. Conway Twitty, “Goodbye Time” (Blake Shelton)
15. Hank Williams, “I Saw the Light” (Blind Boys of Alabama/ Hank Williams Jr.)
16. Bob Dylan, “Shelter from the Storm” (Rodney Crowell/Emmylou Harris)
17. Merle Haggard, “Today I Started Loving You Again” (Buddy Jewell/Miranda Lambert)
18. Nitty Gritty Dirtband, “Fishing in the Dark” (Garth Brooks)
19. The White Stripes, “Dead Leaves in the Dirty Ground” (Chris Thile)
20. Al Green, “Lets Stay Together” (John Berry)
21. David Allan Coe, “You Never Even Called Me by My Name” (Doug Supernaw)
22. The Decemberists, “Shankill Butchers” (Sarah Jarosz
23. Steve Earle, “My Old Friend the Blues” (Patty Loveless)
24. Eric Clapton, “Lay Down Sally” (Delbert McClinton)
25. Fred Eaglesmith, “Time to Get a Gun” (Miranda Lambert)
26. Dolly Parton, “Jolene” (The White Stripes)
27. Johnny Cash, “I Still Miss Someone” (Suzy Bogguss)
28. Pearl Jam, “Better Man” (Sugarland)
29. Kris Kristofferson, “From the Bottle to the Bottom” (Dierks Bentley/Kris Kristofferson)
30. Don Williams, “Lord, I hope this Day is Good” (Lee Ann Womack)
31. Bob Dylan, “Don’t Think Twice, It’s all right” (Randy Travis)

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Retro Single Review: George Strait, “Fool Hearted Memory”

1982 | Peak: #1

Thirty years ago, “Fool Hearted Memory”, the first single from his second album, was George Strait’s first number one single. And for very good reason. Up to that point, Strait demonstrated great potential, but this is the first time that he fires on all cylinders with overwhelming success.

With “Fool Hearted Memory”, Strait finds his literal voice. It is stronger and more confident than it had been on his first album. While the song calls for a certain amount of restraint and sadness, Strait is able to fully capture those emotions without sounding at all timid.

A song about a pesky memory that won’t let a man admit to himself that his woman has left him for good is the stuff of a killer country classic. What’s more, one cannot hear the song without reveling in the delightfully country fiddle riff that dominates the track. Likewise, the infectious, sing-able melody will be in my head for the rest of the day just from listening to it twice for the purpose of this review. I’m guessing it’ll now be stuck in your head as well.

Written by Byron Hill & Alan R. Mevis

Grade: A

Listen: Fool Hearted Memory

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Worth Reading: The Launch of Engine 145

Hark! I have exciting news for those of us who have been feeling a great void ever since the disbandment of The 9513! While we will continue to miss the esteemed country music blog, with Brady & Brody Vercher’s blessings, Engine 145 has just been launched to sort of take its place, or at least complement what The 9513 had begun.

Aside from its undeniably cool name, the even more awesome thing is that Engine 145 will be run by accomplished and respected country music critic, Juli Thanki, who just so happens to be one of my personal favorite country music writers. She will be joined by several of our old favorites from The 9513 as well.

I don’t know about all of you, but ever since The 9513 ceased operation, I have felt like I’ve had to work way too hard to discover good country music. I kept telling myself, “It shouldn’t be this hard.” And alas, it won’t be any longer. While our bank accounts might be a little emptier again, I’m unshakably excited to welcome Engine 145 to the blogosphere. I hope all of you will too.

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Retro Single Review: Dolly Parton, “Just Because I’m a Woman”

1968 | Peak: #17

While we continue to notice tangible gender inequities in country music today, particularly the ratio of male artists versus female artists that are played on mainstream radio, the gap between what male and female artists can sing about has narrowed considerably. Moreover, it’s certainly not uncommon to hear a range of topics from female singers that reveal the strength of independent minded, empowered women.

In 1968, however, women’s anthems were not so common or accepted and if they were, it was somewhat of an anomaly. While Kitty Wells had a smash with “It Wasn’t God who Made Honky Tonk Angels” in 1952, written as an answer to Hank Thompson’s “Wild Side of Life”, the recording and release of Dolly Parton’s 1968 single “Just Because I’m A Woman” was still a bold move at the time.

Written in response to her husband’s disappointment that he was not her first sexual relationship, even though she was not his first either, Parton points out “my mistakes are no worse than yours, just because I’m a woman.” She even goes as far to detail the glaring double standard by observing: “Now a man will take a good girl/ And he’ll ruin her reputation/ But when he wants to marry/ Well, that’s a different situation.”

The tune is not especially catchy and it’s not bolstered by a raucous production like some of country music’s favorite anthems of today, but those missing elements only make Dolly’s anthem of gender equity even more poignant as she sings with both tenderness and matter-of-factness regarding a hypocritical attitude that still exists in 2011.

Written by Dolly Parton

Grade: A

Listen: Just Because I’m a Woman

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Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Rodney Crowell

As most of my favorite artists tend to be, Rodney is talented in multiple ways. Not only does he have a charismatic voice, he’s an accomplished musician, songwriter and producer. He has used these talents for himself, but has also shared them with many other artists. In fact, high-profile artists like Rosanne Cash, Emmylou Harris, Vince Gill, Johnny Cash, Chely Wright, among many others, have benefited from his musicianship, compositions and producing abilities.

In this feature, we will focus on some of the best Rodney Crowell songs–whether they were big hits, minor hits or unreleased album tracks—but these twenty-five songs certainly do not do enough justice to this man’s contribution to country music. As a result, look for an accompanying Favorite Songs by Favorite Songwriters feature on Rodney Crowell to come soon.

#25
“You’ve Been on My Mind”

from the 1989 album Keys to the Highway

The lyrics are a little ambiguous, but it’s clear that this is a lonesome song about love lost. Crowell can do a lonesome song with the best of them and he does just that here.

#24
“Telephone Road”

from the 2001 album The Houston Kid

With an infectious, driving production, “Telephone Road” depicts Crowell’s childhood with fondness (an ice cream from the ice cream truck was only 5 cents), but without the irresponsible nostalgia that seems to afflict many such songs of today (I’m looking at you Bucky Covington). To be totally shallow, this is one to blast on some good speakers.

#23
“Adam’s Song”

from the 2003 album Fate’s Right Hand

Anyone who has experienced the passing of a loved one knows the reality that Crowell sings about. As he knowingly observes, “We’ll keep learning how to live with a lifelong broken heart.”

#22
“Many A Long and Lonesome Highway”

from the 1989 album Keys to the Highway

This is the first song I’d ever heard by Rodney Crowell. At the time, I had just gotten into country music and the song was already four or five years old, but I had no idea of his history. I simply thought it was a great, melodic song. I still do.

#21
“Song for the Life”

from the 1978 album Ain’t Living Long Like This

To me, this song sounds mature and reflective, from a man who has lived and learned. However, in a 2005 20 Questions interview with CMT, Rodney reveals that he wrote this song when he was a mere twenty-one years old. And, is that Willie Nelson I hear singing background vocals? Yes, it is.

#20
“Fate’s Right Hand”

from the 2003 album Fate’s Right Hand

The title track of the critically acclaimed Fate’s Right Hand explores changing times and injustices much better than Toby Keith’s “American Ride” does.

#19
“Topsy Turvy”

from the 2001 album The Houston Kid

This song vividly paints the picture of Crowell’s parents’ abusive relationship. It’s from his perspective as the fully aware child who witnesses the turbulence. He doesn’t mince words throughout the song, but especially when he admits, “I cross my heart and tell myself ‘I hope they die’”. He also details the lack of meaningful response from neighbors and police officers.

#18
“Beautiful Despair

from the 2005 album The Outsider

It’s not a feeling that one wants to embrace often, but there are times when leaning into that feeling of despair propels one to action or at least some needed introspection. From this song, it’s likely that despair has played a beautiful function in his life.

#17
“Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight”

from the 1978 album Ain’t Living Long Like This

Emmylou Harris was one of the first people to record a Rodney Crowell song and what a gem it is. While Harris’ recording of it is the strongest and most exuberant version, Crowell’s version is great too.

#16
“This Too Will Pass”

from the 2003 album Fate’s Right Hand

What I like about a Rodney Crowell penned inspirational song is that it’s not embarrassing to listen to. It’s inspiring without sounding like a page from Chicken Soup for the Soul.

#15
“My Baby’s Gone” (with Emmylou Harris)

from the 2003 album Livin’ Lovin’ Losin’: Songs of the Louvin Brothers

From the excellent Louvin Brothers tribute album, one of the many shining moments is this duet from Rodney and Emmylou Harris. It just cements the fact that they need to do a duets album. Stat!

#14
“The Rock of My Soul”

from the 2001 album The Houston Kid

While this song is not strictly autobiographical, it is a chilling representation of Crowell’s tumultuous experiences with his father.

#13
“Dancin’ Circles Round the Sun (Epictetus Speaks)”

from the 2005 album The Outsider

Here’s another example of Rodney Crowell inspiring without sickening.

#12
“After All This Time”

from the 1988 album Diamonds & Dirt

If you’re not listening carefully, you might think this is a pretty love song. It, however, is a wistful love song to a relationship that no longer exists.

#11
“I Walk the Line Revisited” (With Johnny Cash)

from the 2001 album The Houston Kid

This is a joyful account of the first time Crowell heard Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line” on the radio as a kid. It’s an obvious full circle moment when Cash sings an altered melody of the classic on Crowell’s song about it.

#10
“We Can’t Turn Back”

from the 2005 album The Outsider

In his gentle but no nonsense way, Crowell explores the notion that we can’t change the past, which means that we can only focus on the present and what we can do to make it better.

#9
“Artemis and Orion”

from the 2003 digital release Lost Tracks

Supported by a delightfully simple production and memorable tune, Rodney sings a version of the story of Artemis and Orion from Greek Mythology. I’m not sure of the origins of the song, since it seems to have been randomly recorded by Crowell, but it is fun to listen to.

#8
“’Til I Gain Control Again”

from the 1981 album Rodney Crowell

Crowell has written several songs that have become classics for him and for others. “’Til I Gain Control Again” was first recorded by Emmylou Harris in the mid-seventies, then made famous by Crystal Gayle in the early eighties and subsequently recorded by many artists over the years. Crowell’s own version is beautifully sung with just the right air of forlornness.

#7
“Things that Go Bump in the Day”

from the 2005 album The Outsider

I hardly even know what this song means, but I still love it for its bouncy production, unshakable melody and Crowell’s energy while singing it. I dare you not to get it stuck in your head.

#6
“The Outsider”

from the 2005 album The Outsider

The effective use of horns in this bluesy soul infused song is enough to hook me, but the theme of being okay with being different is something to embrace too.

#5
“Things I Wish I Said”

from the 1989 album Keys to the Highway

Much has been written and said about Rodney Crowell’s difficult relationship with his violent father, but the end of that story is that they found a way to heal their relationship and turn it into something healthy and tender. This song is personal to Crowell as it describes the relief that he feels that he has no regrets with the passing of his father. Likewise, it is a universal sentiment that most of us can relate to as well.

#4
“She’s Crazy for Leaving”

from the 1988 album Diamonds & Dirt

I love this song because both the melody and the song’s vividly painted story are equally funky. The scene that’s created for the song is fodder for a hilarious and ridiculous comedy sketch.

#3
“Riding Out the Storm”

from the 2003 album Fate’s Right Hand

A not so beautiful picture is underscored by a beautiful melody and poetic lyrics. That’s one of Rodney Crowell’s effortless songwriting talents.

#2
“Making Memories of Us”

from the 2004 album The Notorious Cherry Bombs

Keith Urban is who made this song famous and Crowell a little richer, but Rodney Crowell, backed by Vince Gill, is who makes it a fine treasure. Written for his wife as a last minute Valentine’s Day gift, it’s a tender love song that rivals most modern songs of its ilk. It’s one of those “action” songs that I especially love. He’s not just promising to love her, but also pledging to be an active part of their relationship in order to create meaningful memories.

#1
“Shelter from the Storm” (with Emmylou Harris)

from the 2005 album The Outsider

Again, there’s no reason that Emmylou and Rodney shouldn’t make a duets album together. With sublime vocal chemistry, they turn this Bob Dylan song into something entirely different than what it once was. Instead of having to dig for the gem, they put it out there front and center for us. It’s gorgeous and it’s their interpretation that makes it so.

In “Beautiful Despair”, Crowell acknowledges the depth of Bob Dylan’s songwriting and his feelings of inadequacy when compared to Dylan’s ability. He sings: “Beautiful despair is hearing Dylan/ When you’re drunk at 3 a.m. / Knowing that the chances are/ No matter what you’ll never write like him.”

As a Dylan fan, it may be heresy to think it, but methinks Rodney Crowell is being too hard on himself. It is not a knock on Rodney Crowell’s incredible songwriting that I chose a song that he did not write as my top Crowell song, but rather, a testament to his ability to interpret a legendary song well enough to make it his own.

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