Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell

Tue, May 9, 2017

8:00 pm

Adv Tix $20.00 / Day of Show Tix $25.00

This event is all ages

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Rodney Crowell
Rodney Crowell
CLOSE T IES (NEW WEST RECORDS)
Rodney Crowell has been doing this for a while. In fact, his career has been so long and varied
that you have to specify exactly which this you’re talking about. There’s the record-making,
which dates back to 1978 (when he released Ain’t Living Long L ike This), peaked commercially
a decade later (with Diamon ds & Dirt, which yielded five number-one country hits), and has only
grown in sophistication and power in recent years. There’s the fiercely lyrical and personal
songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger (who famously
covered “Shame On the Moon”) to Keith Urban (who had a number-one hit with “Making
Memories of Us”). And then there’s the autobiographical writing, which extends beyond the
music world to a memoir, Chinabe rry Sidewalks, which was published in 2011.
Now there’s a new albu m, Close Ties, on which Crowell both demonstrates his strengths as a
songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary
sophistication, and his profound musical reach. It’s at once his most intimate record and his
most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter—and be
entered by—life. “It’s a loose concept album, you could say,” Crowell says. “And the concept is
related to how you tell stories about yourself. Having a few years ago written a memoir, my
sensibilities toward narrative—especially trying to find a common thread in different pieces of
writing—had become a part of my songwriting process. One of the reasons I brought Kim Buie
in as a producer is that I wanted her to work with me the way an editor works, to look at a
number of songs and find the ones that worked together to create a tone.”
Close Ties is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back
into the alternative country scene of the early seventies. But is defies easy classification. Is it
country? Is it a songwriter record? Does art need categories? “Well,” Crowell says, “when I was
a quote-unquote country star for my fifteen minutes of major fame, I hated the label. I bristled at
it and got myself in trouble. I would go around to radio stations and that early morning
drive-time, chirpy optimism, and I would come across as grumpy. They knew my mind wasn’t in
the right place. I was an interloper in that world. I didn’t fit it. It soon spit me out. In hindsight, it
should have: I was no asset to their goal, which was to satisfy their advertisers.”
On the other hand, the rise of Americana music struck a nerve with him. “I have declared my
loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the
terminology is. But all the people who represent it—Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda
Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell—share a
common thread, and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music
exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial
compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”

One trait of a poet, Crowell explains, involves the careful handling of memory. “A few years ago
I made a record called The Hou ston Kid that triggered Chinaberry Sidewalks,” he says. “Those
memory muscles are pretty strong in me. They have a natural pull. And so many of these songs
use those memories as raw material.” They range from songs about Crowell’s childhood in
Texas (“East Houston Blues”) to songs about arriving in Nashville as a young songwriter
(“Nashville 1972”) to songs about friends (the anguished “Life Without Susanna”) and lovers
(the rueful “Forgive Me, Annabelle”). “It’s not always autobiographical memory,” he says.
“There’s fictional writing involved in it, too. But it’s all about thinking through the places that I’ve
been, and how I might use them as backdrop for reflection. In ‘East Houston Blues,’ for
example, I’m talking about the place where I grew up. Central Houston is broken into wards.
The Fifth Ward is where Lightnin’ Hopkins came from. The Third is where I come from.
Traditionally, the third ward was home to the poor white population, and the song doesn’t shy
away from that: it talks about poverty and petty crime but also communicates the joy of music.”
In the simmering “I Don’t Care Anymore,” he reflects ruefully on his current self-confidence (“I
don’t care anymore / if I stand out in a crowd”) but only in contrast with earlier incarnations of
himself. “That song is based on sketching who I was at my commercial peak, when I had five
number one records,” he says. “I had a mullet and I was trying to strut my ass around and make
the girls buy my records. I look back on that with some bemusement and a certain amount of
sarcasm. I pick on the work more than I should, maybe. In the song, the guy is writing
middle-of-the-road songs. That’s not exactly autobiographical. But it’s the feeling of not being
completely honest to yourself.”
“It Ain’t Over Yet,” a vocal collaboration with his ex-wife Rosanne Cash and John Paul White,
addresses how the passage of time can burnish love. “I don’t care what you think you heard /
We’re still learning how to fly,” he sings, and Cash answers with “I’ve known you forever and
ever it’s true / If you came by it easy you wouldn’t be you.” The record also features a duet with
Sheryl Crow on the haunting “I’m Tied To Ya.” The wisdom of women is never far from Crowell’s
mind, either in song or in life. “If you follow my path I think it was there from the start,” he says.
“Susanna Clark, who was married to the songwriter Guy Clark, became a very close friend when
I was in my early 20s. We weren’t lovers and in fact she offered me more than that. She was
this incredibly intelligent, creative woman---and my first ever muse. In my quest to please her
artistically, I became a realized songwriter. The same goes for Emmylou Harris whose natural
grace has impacted my life since 1975. Then there was my partnership with Rosanne Cash.
The marriage ended but from time to time the musical collaboration goes on. My wife now,
Claudia, offers the gift of stability to both my personal and professional endeavors. And with four
daughters and two grand daughters, my corner of the world is populated by formidable women.”
As he moves into elder-statesman territory, Crowell continues to extend the path carved out by
the top-tier songwriters who preceded him. “All are so important,” he said. “Bob Dylan would of
course be an archetype, as would Neil Young, Johnny Cash, John Lennon. Every time they
release work I find something in it.” He would add a name to the pantheon. “Kris Kristofferson
belongs in there, too. He personifies all that intelligence and emotional vulnerability and

magnetism. I spoke about him at Austin City Limits and said he changed the face of Nashville,
and he’s continued to give us deeply meaningful work like This Old Road.”
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes
in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them. “The interesting thing about that
garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to
‘Honky Tonkin’’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’
Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Creem. That was the beauty of it, that all
of that existed side by side.” Crowell finds himself going back to that music, but also going even
earlier. “Recently, I think—I hope—that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music.
Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players,
connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get
back there.”
Venue Information:
Troubadour
9081 Santa Monica Blvd
Los Angeles, CA, 90069
http://www.troubadour.com/

All lineups and times subject to change