Throughout Rodney Crowell’s best work, there’s a rhythm — one could say a heartbeat — in the way he sings and writes about love and mistakes. You can feel the pulse inside of his poetry, an undeniable energy that marks this Texas native as one of the most intriguing and important country and Americana songwriters of his generation. He can be sentimental but rarely sappy, always ready to reassess a situation through a song without making you feel like you’ve heard it before. His albums reveal themselves further over time, rather than chasing a trend.
Longtime fans of Crowell’s work are likely to keep his new album, The Chicago Sessions, in rotation alongside classics like Diamonds & Dirt or The Houston Kid. (Even the album’s cover image is a throwback to his 1978 debut.) Compelling new songs like “Making Lovers Out of Friends” are delivered in a voice that’s weathered but not weak, yet he also offers salutes the late great Townes Van Zandt with a poignant rendition of “No Place to Fall,” composed decades ago by Van Zandt from the perspective of a sad wanderer who’s looking for someone to count on.
For The Chicago Sessions, Crowell counted on producer Jeff Tweedy and recording engineer Tom Schick to frame the collection in a manner that feels eloquent as well as immediate. Crowell and Tweedy also team up to sing the album’s lead single, “Everything at Once,” and the mutual admiration is evident.
Upon its release, Crowell noted, “It occurred to me that Jeff and I are both songwriters, and we ought to write something together for this album. We could have harmonized on it and gone down an Everly Brothers route, but ultimately we decided to just sing in unison and throw it out there like an all-skate. I love that we didn’t get too precious about it.”
Tweedy added, “The way that Rodney writes is deeply connected to a classic era of country songwriters that I’ve always loved. In my estimation, it’s as close as I can get to working with Townes Van Zandt or Felice and Boudleaux Bryant — people who crafted songs with a very specific sensibility. And I like being near that.”
Same here. For that reason and many more, we’re proud to reveal Rodney Crowell as our BGS Artist of the Month. In a few weeks, we’ll share our exclusive interview about his new work, plus we’re diving into our archives for our favorite tracks and videos from his admirable career – like his 2017 Sitch Session performance of “East Houston Blues.” Meanwhile, enjoy our BGS Essentials playlist for Rodney Crowell.
Photo Credit: Claudia Church