2015 CD REVIEW
EMMYLOU HARRIS-RODNEY CROWELL
THE TRAVELLING KIND (WARNER).
EMMYLOU AND RODNEY - THE TRAVELLING KIND EN ROUTE TO ST KILDA
“We don't all die young to save our spark/ from the ravages of time/ but the first and lose to leave their mark/ someday become the travelling kind.” - The Travelling Kind - Rodney Crowell-Emmylou Harris-Cory Chisel.
Seasoned singer-songwriters Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell may have hit a few horrific hurdles in their country careers that span five decades.
But despite a ruptured romance or two the true troubadours, who first worked together in Emmylou's Hot Band in 1975, have boomeranged to tour here to promote their second duet album The Travelling Kind.
So it's a pleasant surprise that this disc is equally accessible and worthy of far more airplay and TV exposure that it will score here in the unlucky radio country.
Not even the guest appearances of prolific expat Adelaide multi-instrumentalist Jedd Hughes on mandolin, a variety of guitars and harmony vocals, will dent the myopic mainstream.
“It's just me and Rodney singing,” Harris says.
“I don't know how different that will be. We wanted to change things up just a little bit, but basically it's just two friends singing together.”
So let's examine the magic from the title track entrée to the multi-lingual Cajun finale La Danse De La Joie also featuring Little Feat pianist and one time Goanna producer Bill Payne, Chris Tuttle on accordion and violinist Larry Franklin.
That's indeed the dance of joy.
The title track reaches into the back pages of Alabama born Harris, now 68, and former duet partner Gram Parsons, who went to God at 26, on September 19, 1973.
To emphasise the point that songs live on long beyond their writers check out “be it Waycross boy or red dirt girl/ the song becomes the travelling kind.”
Parsons may have been born in Winter Haven , Florida , but was raised in Waycross , Georgia - a locale also name checked by the late Texan Mickey Newbury in San Francisco Mabel Joy and Warren Haynes in Wanderlust from his sixth solo album Ashes & Dust .
Fittingly the second track here is Crowell song No Memories Hanging Around that he produced for his first former singing spouse Rosanne Cash, now 60, during their 12 year marriage.
It was originally recorded as a Top 20 duet with fellow survivor Bobby Bare, now 80, in September 1979 as the first single from Rosanne's disc Right or Wrong - her second of 13 albums.
So it's easy for Crowell, now 64, to step into papa Bare's shoes as he re-ignites the poignant paean with Emmylou.
BRING IT ON HOME TO MEMPHIS
“Sweet Lucinda look out your window/ LA Freeway just like the man said/ people honking their horns/ pointing guns at your head/ sweet Lucinda, in a land of cotton you're not forgotten/ the Mississippi river just rolls on through.” - Bring It on Home To Memphis - Rodney Crowell-Larry Klein.
Crowell and Harris till the Mississippi delta for the riveting marriage of music, cotton, food and blues as Rodney sings to his homecoming queen in the joyous Bring It On Home to Memphis .
They allude to Texan born L.A. Freeway writer Guy Clark and Louisiana born Lucinda Williams, who first toured here with Rosanne Cash and Mary Chapin Carpenter, in their river homage.
Trivia buffs may note that co-writer Larry Klein's marriage to ailing Canadian born legend Joni Mitchell lasted just 12 years - the same length as the Crowell-Cash marriage.
But we'll stick to the song being a salient signpost to Lucinda penned I Just Wanted to See You So Bad, originally on her self-titled third album in 1988 that is saved to track seven.
They're punctuated by three new Crowell-Harris tunes kicked off by the pathos primed ballad You Can't Say We Didn't Try - a vintage Crowell tear-jerker.
The disc is a worthy sequel to their first duet album, 2013's Old Yellow Moon that won Best Americana Album at the 56th annual Grammy Awards and two Americana Music Association Honours & Awards for 2013 Album and Duo/Group of the Year.
THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD
“They got us hooked on oil/ till the pipeline blowed/ it's such a shame to see/ adding World War Three/ to the weight of the world/ knock the top off a mountain/ without nary a shrug/ poison us up a river/ with the devil's own sludge/ it's the American dream/ but if you live downstream.” - The Weight Of The World - Rodney Crowell-Emmylou Harris.
They follow with Higher Mountains - where they try to build a bridge between two lovers, using the height of the peaks, the depth of the valleys and the length of the rivers as their marital metaphor.
But, as with so many dashed dreams, they don't meet until they reach the mythical other side - a perfect segue to I Just Want To See You So Bad.
Crowell also collaborated with another protégé Mary Karr in writing Just Pleasing You where the male lead rebounds from his alcohol fuelled solitude and destruction to the loving arms of the subject of his affection.
Yes, a happy ending and sibling of the optimism of the self-explanatory and jaunty If You Lived Here, You'd Be Home Now - “what you see is what you get/ and I'm the one you've got/ I'm tired of breaking these rocks up in this field my heart won't plough.”
And, as with all Crowell and Harris discs the salient sequencing is equal to the production - this time it's Joe Henry.
The melancholic Amy Allison penned grand-maternal memories of Her Hair Was Red - is followed by the aforementioned joyous finale La Danse De La Joie.
Crowell and Harris performed a series of shows this month in San Francisco , Nashville , Napa , Chicago , and New York , before making the trek to Australia and Europe.
"In the words of Willie Nelson, 'The life I love is making music with my friends,' and there's no better friend for me to make music with than Rodney," Harris says.
"I can't wait to get out there on the road with him and play the songs from this new record."
But that's not all.
Emmylou has revealed she is working on a new Trio album featuring collaborations between herself, Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt.
The record, which was completed using material from the women's previous recording sessions, is due for a 2015 release.
“We had a lot of outtakes,” Harris recently revealed.
“I didn't realise how many. That will come out in September. And it is some pretty great stuff. I go back and say, ‘Damn, we sounded good. Why didn't we put that one on there?'”
But the new project is bittersweet as Ronstadt's ongoing battle with Parkinson's disease has left her unable to sing.
“I can't get to the note,” Ronstadt, now 68, says.
“I can't make any quality sound. I can't arrange pitch. I might aim for a note and hit another one. It sounds like shouting.”
Emmylou and Rodney play St Kilda Palais on Thursday June 25.