Rodney Crowell “The Chicago Sessions”

New West Records, 2023

 Joyous collaboration a cause for celebration.

A new Rodney Crowell record is always a cause for celebration and for ‘The Chicago Sessions’ he has engaged the services of Jeff Tweedy who not only produces but features throughout the ten song collection. On the suggestion of his daughter the album’s artwork is similar in style to his 1978 debut ‘Ain’t Living Long Like This’ and Crowell insists that this fits perfectly with the album’s throwback to earlier days with his band loose and live in a room together.

The songs cover subjects as diverse as race and religion, love and mortality but, whatever the inspiration, Crowell delivers an album that, from the very first honky tonk bars of opening track ‘Lucky’, reflects an artist happy in his environment and determined to reflect that in his music. Amongst the players that Crowell brought to this particular party is pianist Catherine Marx and her contribution there is a prelude to much of what follows and contributes hugely to what is in the main, a joyful, up-tempo record.

Tweedy’s influence is felt throughout but features most prominently on the co-write ‘Everything At Once’. Wrestling with overstimulation in an overcrowded world, the fine line between hope and despair, the pair have eschewed going down the harmony route, opting instead to share the lead vocals. The result is a high point on the album and very little surprise that it is the first single released. For supporting evidence seek out the video featured elsewhere on the website.

Crowell has delved into the past for a couple of the songs on the record. ‘You’re Supposed To Be Feeling Good’ is a Crowell original that was recorded way back in 1977 by Emmylou Harris. Wanting to record it himself for a very long time it was only with the Tweedy collaboration that Crowell felt the time was right.

For his other delve into the 70s ‘No Place To Fall’ is a Townes Van Zandt song that Crowell has always held a special place in the man’s heart. As a homage to the influence that Crowell insists Van Zandt has played on his songwriting career it is a pitch perfect slice of Crowell at his most affecting. This beautifully sung gentle ballad reminds us that when Crowell takes it down a notch he can wring every drop of emotion from a good old slow number.

Crowell aficionados will receive no surprises from ‘The Chicago Sessions’ but, when an artist is as consistent and reliable as he has been for so long, that is no bad thing.

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About Peter Churchill 178 Articles
Lover of intelligent singer-songwriters; a little bit country; a little bit folk; a little bit Americana. Devotee of the 'small is beautiful' school of thought when it comes to music venues.
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