What is there to say about Rodney Crowell that hasn’t been said a million times over the last four decades? The answer… not much…and it all deserves to be said again. Crowell’s new release, Close Ties, comes 40 years after his debut record, Ain’t Living Long Like This, and completely disproves that record’s title. Not only has Rodney continued to “live like this”, he has continually adapted to the whims of his musical desires. Once considered a country hit maker/ songwriter, the last 15 years or so have seen Crowell adopt a grittier more honest approach to his songs that does not give a damn about what hit the producing side of Nashville is into at the time. Ahhh, but you say to yourself, all that has been written before and you know what else has as well? This is Rodney Crowell’s best record. That’s right, it’s his best. I was hesitant to say that at first because, well, 2001’s Houston Kid is a masterpiece, but after listening to Close Ties nonstop for a week, there is no denying at 65 years old, Crowell has bested all of his previous work.
Crowell’s second release on New West Records contains 10 tracks and not a single one is a throwaway. Starting with the lead track, “East Houston Blues”, the tale of growing up in the seedier part of town, it is apparent the album is going to cause a stir. Later the heartfelt tribute to one of Rodney’s (and so many others) muses, Susanna Clark, “Life Without Susanna” does an amazing job of chronicling both his love for Susanna and his angst and sorrow caused by her departure from this world. On “I Don’t Care Anymore” Rodney pulls no punches in telling the world that he no longer cares who he impresses, he is simply going to do what makes him feel good. The song is an out front declaration of the sentiment that anyone who has been listening to Crowell’s records since the turn of the century was already well aware of. The record closes with an ode to times gone by. “Nashville 1972” celebrates the community of songwriters that ruled the town in the 70s through drunken guitar pulls and competitive songwriting, out of which came some of the best songs this country has ever known. Also included on this record is the first single, “It Ain’t Over Yet”, which features his ex wife, Rosanne Cash and John Paul White of The Civil Wars and “I’m Tied To Ya”, a duet with Sheryl Crow, which are both great tunes.
Rodney Crowell’s, Close Ties officially releases on March 31st and is part of great group of records that New West is putting out in the first half of 2017. That list includes, Nikki Lane’s recently dropped, Highway Queen, and albums from Andrew Combs and Justin Townes Earle. If Close Ties is any indication of the quality of what the label has in store it could definitely be a banner year from a label that has a long history of outstanding releases. Check out Rodney on his site and the rest of the New West Titles, here.