Rodney Crowell is not the most prolific of artists having released just sixteen albums in 37 years. But reviews of his albums have always been liberally festooned with stars and his influence upon contemporary country music has been considerable.
Now, on his latest release, Crowell has revisited his own roots and influences with eleven original songs written with his characteristic melodic and literate flourishes.
"Frankie Please" is unashamed rock 'n' roll a la Jerry Lee with some hot guitar and stompin' piano and "Somebody's Shadow" is a honky tonk blues number with atmospheric bar room piano and raunchy tenor sax. Meanwhile "Fever On The Bayou" - co-written with Will Jennings - adds a touch of Cajun to the Nashville sound and "The Flyboy And The Kid" is Texan Americana defined, with accordion, mandolin and dobro adorning some of Crowells finest lyrics.
Among the slower numbers there are a couple of gorgeous love songs including the yearning country waltz "I Wouldn't Be Me Without You" and a poignant duet with Sharon McNally, "Famous Last Words Of A Fool In Love". Then, with just a simple acoustic guitar and a sweet piano, Crowell delivers a heart wrenching reading of "God, I'm Missing You" that he wrote with Mary Karr.
From the opening track "The Long Journey Home", which sounds like it could have been a collaboration with Springsteen, to the closing county folk of "Oh What A Beautiful World" and dedicated to John Denver, "Tarpaper Sky" references Rodney Crowell's continuing journey through life told in his own words and music. He has rarely sounded in better voice and it stands among his very best work, full of hooks, memories, influences, emotions and bittersweet reflections.