Tag Archives: Rodney Crowell

Daily Top Five: Rodney Crowell

rodney-crowellToday’s Daily Top Five is the promised Rodney Crowell edition.

He’s such a legendary songwriter that I’m putting up three Top Fives – albums, singles, and songs written by him that were recorded by others!

Share yours in the comments.  Here are my lists:

Albums

  1. The Outsider
  2. Fate’s Right Hand
  3. The Houston Kid
  4. Tarpaper Sky
  5. Ain’t Living Long Like This

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For the Love of Guy Clark

Guy ClarkA fundraising campaign to raise money for a documentary on the legendary songwriter is a smashing success.

If anyone’s life is interesting enough to be turned into a full-length film, Guy Clark would be at or near the top of the list. The only problem would be, where to start? There’s his 40-year career as an award-winning singer and songwriter and a craftsman-like approach to writing that stands almost in direct contract to the Nashville commercial music machine. There’s his circle of friends, which reads like a Who’s Who of Twentieth-Century Songwriters. There’s the complicated relationship dynamics between Clark, his longtime friend Townes Van Zandt and his wife Susanna, herself an artist and songwriter who never really got over Van Zandt’s death in 1997.

That’s certainly enough for a film. Or ten.

Fortunately, the person who’s taken on the task of telling Clark’s life in a documentary is the person who’s arguably the most qualified to do so. Tamara Saviano has known Clark for about 15 years, as a friend, journalist, publicist, producer of a stellar Guy Clark tribute album and biographer. While doing the research and interviews for the biography, she decided that a film needed to be made.

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Daily Top Five: Emmylou Harris

"All For The Hall" Benefit / 2010Tomorrow, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell release their second collaborative album, The Travelin’ Kind.   They waited almost four decades to finally do their first album together, 2013’s Grammy-winning Old Yellow Moon.   Kinda cool that we’re getting another album already.

Today, we’re picking our Top Five Albums and Singles of Emmylou Harris.  Check back tomorrow for the Rodney Crowell edition!

Here are my top fives:

Albums

  1. Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town
  2. Roses in the Snow
  3. Cowgirl’s Prayer
  4. Wrecking Ball
  5. Stumble Into Grace

Singles

  1. Beneath Still Waters
  2. Easy From Now On
  3. To Daddy
  4. The Boxer
  5. I Don’t Have to Crawl

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Daily Top Five: Recommend a Track

Rodney Crowell Tarpaper SkyToday, we combine a classic feature with our latest one.

What are your Top Five Track Recommendations?

They don’t have to be that recent, but should be something that wasn’t a single.

Here are my Top Five:

  1. Reba McEntire, “She Got Drunk Last Night”
  2. Punch Brothers, “Magnet”
  3. Tim McGraw, “Overrated”
  4. Nickel Creek, “You Don’t Know What’s Going On”
  5. Rodney Crowell, “God I’m Missing You”

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Daily Top Five: Favorite Songs by Your Favorite Songwriter

Guy ClarkThere’s a cool Guy Clark documentary Kickstarter campaign happening right now that I encourage country music lovers to check out and, perhaps, make a pledge toward. Long time publicist, biographer and Guy Clark champion, Tamara Saviano, is in the process of producing and directing a documentary on Clark, a revered songwriter in country music.

The campaign is already almost fully funded, which is a testament to the wide and strong impact of Clark. However, while they’ve almost raised the initial funds, any extra money on top of that modest goal will only allow the documentary to be even better than it already promises to be, not to mention the opportunities for various perks that are offered to backers of the project.

After reading about and pledging to this campaign, I’ve been going down a Guy Clark Rabbit hole for the last couple of days, which has included listening to songs written by Clark that others have recorded and listening to his own excellent albums.

Luminaries such as Vince Gill, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Jerry Jeff Walker, Ricky Skaggs, Bobby Bare, John Conlee, The Highwaymen, Rosanne Cash, Kathy Mattea, Alan Jackson, Brad Paisley , Ashley Monroe and Kenny Chesney, among many others, have been mentored by and have recorded Guy Clark songs.

With that said, today’s Daily Top Five is : What are your five favorite songs written and/or recorded by one of your favorite songwriters.

Since Guy Clark is one of my favorite songwriters, here are my top favorite songs of his:

1. Guy Clark & Emmylou Harris, “I Don’t Love You Much Do I”

2. Rodney Crowell, “She’s Crazy for Leaving”

3. Jerry Jeff Walker, “L.A. Freeway”

4. The Highwaymen, “Desperados Waiting for a Train”

5. Kathy Mattea, “The Cape”

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Daily Top Five: Albums You’re Most Looking Forward to Purchasing

Chris Stapleton TravellerI’ve listened to this phenomenal Chris Stapleton performance from last night’s Late Night with David Letterman at least 8 times so far today. As I watched it last night, I was extremely proud to be a country music fan. If Stapleton represented what mainstream country music predominantly sounded like these days, I could proudly declare that I was a country music fan without all of the clarifications that I currently have to make.

Stapleton’s new album, Traveler, will finally be released on May 5, which can’t come fast enough. So, as a Part 2 to last night’s Daily Top Five discussion of our five most recent music purchases, tonight we’ll ask you what you hope or expect your next five music purchases will be.

Since I’ve already preordered the Stapleton album, these are the top five albums that I’m looking forward to purchasing (in release date order).

1. Alabama Shakes, Sound and Color

2. Shelby Lynne, I Can’t Imagine

3. Zac Brown Band, Jekyll + Hyde

4. Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell, The Traveling Kind

5. Darrell Scott, Ten

What albums are you most looking forward to?

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The Best Albums of 2014

2014 was a banner year for country music albums.   In addition to the predictably solid entries from the Americana, folk, and bluegrass scenes, some excellent albums also surfaced from the unlikeliest of sources: mainstream, radio-friendly contemporary country artists!

Here are our twenty favorite albums from 2014.   Fingers crossed that 2015 is as good or better than this year has been.

Jennifer Nettles That Girl

#20
Jennifer Nettles
That Girl

KJC #8 | LW #16

A confident, intelligent solo project that washes away all of the bitter taste left by Sugarland’s preceding studio album, The Incredible Machine.  Nettles manages to remind us what was so appealing about the trio-turned-duo in the first place, while also staking out her own musical territory that has room for independence anthems alongside wry, humorous commentary on society and, of course, palpably vulnerable heartbreak numbers.  – Kevin John Coyne

Recommended Tracks: “Me Without You”, “Know You Wanna Know”, “Jealousy”

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Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists: Carlene Carter

Carlene CarterIt’s easy to forget just how talented Carlene Carter is.  In the last eighteen years, she’s only given us two albums to remind us.  But with a career that stretches back to her 1978 eponymous debut album, all the way through her excellent new release, Carter Girl, she has been a consistently excellent entertainer and songwriter.

In addition to her latest release, her albums Musical Shapes (1980), I Fell in Love (1990), and Little Love Letters (1993) are all among the best country albums of their time.  Those three sets factor heavily into this list, but there are plenty of great moments on most of her other studio albums, too.  Her first four sets tend to fade in and out of print, but they’re worth snapping up when available.

It’s been more than five years since I’ve done a Favorite Songs by Favorite Artists post.  For the uninitiated, my rubric is simple: I just ranked my favorite twenty-five tracks and then counted them down with commentary.  No big stab at objective truth here.  This is just what I like the most from one of ’em that I like the most.   Share your own favorites in the comments, and hopefully discover one or two new ones along the way.

Carlene Carter Little Love Letters

#25
Little Love Letter #1 and Little Love Letter #2
Little Love Letters (1993)
Written by Carlene Carter, Howie Epstein, and Benmont Tench

The first Carlene Carter album I ever bought was Little Love Letters.  I was instantly hooked by the clever framing of  “Side 1″ and “Side 2″ with these quick vignettes.  They’re funny, they’re heartfelt, and I could listen to a whole album full of them.

Carlene Carter Musical Shapes

#24
Too Bad About Sandy
Musical Shapes (1980)
Written by Carlene Carter

When I was younger, I just got a kick out of how dark and seedy this track seemed, with its celebration of the sweet low life and cold hard cash.  But now, I keep going back to the wisdom in the advice she gives her love-struck younger sister: “Honey, can’t be love if you’ve gotta ask twice.”

Carlene Carter Two Sides to Every Woman

#23
Swap-Meat Rag
Two Sides to Every Woman (1979)
Written by Carlene Carter

On the surface, it’s a bawdy number about free love.  Underneath the surface, it’s a wicked satire of the artifice that is American suburbia.  Plus she growls a lot, and it sounds cool.

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Album Review: Emmylou Harris, Wrecking Ball: Deluxe Edition

Emmylou Harris Wrecking Ball Deluxe Edition

Emmylou Harris

Wrecking Ball: Deluxe Edition

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Nonesuch has released an impressive deluxe edition of the landmark Emmylou Harris album, Wrecking Ball.  For those who are new to the set, this is the edition you should buy.  But it’s also worth the upgrade for those who already have this set in their collection.

Produced by Daniel Lanois, this album was a stunning departure for Harris, so much so that she personally requested that it not be eligible for the country charts.  That’s funny in retrospect, given that alongside legends like Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Neil Young, the album was anchored by compositions by up-and-coming songwriters like Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and Julie Miller.  With further cuts by writers like Anna McGarrigle, Steve Earle, and Rodney Crowell, Wrecking Ball helped set a template for what would become a vibrant Americana scene over the years that followed.

Nice history lesson, right? But the reason this album sounded great then, and still does now, is because the songs are fantastic and the production is evocatively original.   It still sounds fresh today, and while Emmylou would hold on to remnants of this sound for next few projects, it has both its birth and its zenith on this record.  It might be her best album, period, and it’s definitely her most ambitious and interesting.

The deluxe edition’s best element is its second disc of demos and outtakes, which help tell the story of how some of these songs took shape.  I was most fascinated by the revved-up, rapid-fire “Deeper Well”, and the melancholy reading of the self-penned “Gold”, which she would include in a (slightly) more upbeat version on her 2008 album, All I Intended to Be.   It didn’t quite fit with the rest of Wrecking Ball. All of the outtakes and demos included indicate the album was released in its best possible form, and most are for the completist only.

The bonus DVD is a 1995 documentary called Building the Wrecking Ball. It’s an overlong puff piece that’s most entertaining for its showcase of mid-nineties “serious musician” garb.  Emmylou in sleeveless flannel aside, the doc also features what I consider the most maddening editorial choice films like this can make: playing the final album version of a song over mixed footage of said song being recorded and being performed live.  For me, it made watching it unbearable.

But the packaging is worth the upgrade, with a fantastic new essay by Gillian Welch and nearly typo-free lyrics for both the original album and the second disc of rarities.  Some nice photos, too.  Overall, it’s a more serious deluxe take than we’ve gotten on any Emmylou Harris album to date, putting those Rhino reissues of her earlier work to shame.

 

 

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What are You Listening to? – 2014 Edition

There have been a lot of new releases in the past few weeks.  What tracks are resonating with you the most?

Here are three of my current favorites, all of which have been recorded before:

Carlene Carter Carter Girl

Carlene Carter, “Me and the Wildwood Rose”  

from the album Carter Girl

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“Me and the Wildwood Rose” was always one of my favorite Carlene Carter tracks.  Back when the original recording was released in 1990, it had a wistful nostalgia for the grandmother that she had lost.  In 2014, all of the other folks mentioned in the song, including her little sister “the Wildwood Rose”, have also passed on.  The new version is so heavy with grief, it is only Carter’s effervescent spirit that keeps it from being too heavy.

Rodney Crowell Tarpaper Sky

Rodney Crowell, “God I’m Missing You”

from the album Tarpaper Sky

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Speaking of grief, Rodney Crowell’s “God I’m Missing You” is a gut-wrencher.  Widows don’t often get the chance to speak in pure poetry:  “Time stretches to shape you right out of thin air. But it can’t hold the image. If I blink, you’re not there.  God I’m missing you.”  For me, it’s the highlight of an excellent album, with his best songwriting since The Outsider.  Lucinda Williams recorded it before him, and she does it well.

Dolly Parton Blue Smoke

Dolly Parton, “Banks of the Ohio”

from the album Blue Smoke

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Parton’s latest set is a welcome return to form, and it features compelling covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Bon Jovi.  But the highlight for me is “Banks of the Ohio”, an oft-recorded standard that she breathes new life into by framing it with a narrative device that has her retelling the story being told to her.  This allows for Parton to speak in the male voice of the murderer, and still infuse the song with her trademark empathy.  (She’s never shied away from a suicide number, but homicide really isn’t her style.)

So we still have to wait from some country lady besides Olivia Newton-John to fully embrace the murderess within her, but until then, the stunning harmonies and heartfelt vocal of Parton has newly minted this treasured classic.

That’s what I’m listening to. What are you listening to?

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