My Kind of Country

Country music from a fan's point of view since 2008

Album Review: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – ‘Old Yellow Moon’

harriscrowellAlthough the prospect of an Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell duets album seemed like an idea that was long overdue, I initially kept my hopes in check, having been disappointed, more often than not, by the recent output of both artists. However, Old Yellow Moon, which was released last week has more than exceeded my admittedly guarded expectations, and is in fact the best collection that either artist has released in quite a long time.

The album was produced by Emmylou’s ex-husband Brian Ahern, who produced her best work from the 1970s and early 1980s, and the songwriting credits read like a Who’s Who in country music featuring names such as Hank DeVito, Roger Miller, Allen Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson, and of course, Rodney Crowell himself. The first two tracks, DeVito’s “Hanging Up My Heart” and an excellent cover of Miller’s “Invitation To The Blues” sound as though they could have been left over from some of those 1970s recording sessions and recently discovered in the Warner Bros. vaults. Kristofferson’s “Chase The Feeling” sounds like an old Everly Brothers tune, and I also quite like “Here We Are”, which Emmylou had previously recorded with George Jones.

I was initially less impressed with “Black Caffeine” a bluesy tribute to the dark bean; it has grown on me with repeated listenings, though I still would not rank it as one of my favorites. I found “Spanish Dancer” to be rather dull. It is closer in style to Emmylou’s post-mainstream music than anything else on the album and is my least favorite here. “Dreaming My Dreams”, the oft-covered Allen Reynolds song made famous by Waylon Jennings, is reworked as a duet. The wear and tear on both artists’ voices is quite apparent on this track, but the seasoned vocals somehow enhance the song rather than detract from it.

“Bluebird Wine” is a Crowell composition that Emmylou recorded for her debut album, 1975’s Pieces of the Sky. This time around it is given an acoustic treatment with Crowell singing lead. The album’s most polished track is Matraca Berg’s “Back When We Were Beautiful”, which is given a simple piano arrangement. The occasional cracks in Harris’ voice add credibility to the tale of an old woman reminiscing about her youth.

Only a little more than two months in, it’s a little premature to be making predictions about the best albums of the year, but it’s difficult to foresee any circumstances under which Old Yellow Moon would not be on my list of year-end picks. I hope that both Harris and Crowell will do more of this style of music in the future.

Grade: A

7 responses to “Album Review: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – ‘Old Yellow Moon’

  1. Occasional Hope March 7, 2013 at 2:03 pm

    I really like this album too.

  2. Leeann Ward March 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    I’m really glad both of you like this album. I love it and I’ve loved it more with each listen. Right now, it’s my favorite album of the year.

  3. Jonathan Pappalardo March 7, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    I first became enamored with Harris and Crowell as a dynamic collaborative force through “My Baby’s Gone,” their contribution to Livin’ Lovin’ Loosin’ : A Tribute to the Louvin Brothers. That track is excellent, traditional country, and showcases both of them perfectly. Few of these songs match the magic of that for me, but I don’t enjoy this album any less.

    So far I’m loving “Hanging Up My Heart” and “Invitation to the Blues.” “Spanish Dancer” may be a bit slow, but I’m really enjoy its quite beauty and Harris’ gorgeous lead vocal.”Black Caffeine” is a little left of center stylistically, but I enjoy it’s slinky groove. Some of the tracks aren’t as country as I would’ve liked, but their styling hardly dampens their excellence. I’ll be surprised if I don’t have this in my top ten CDs of the year.

    I’m seeing them live for the first time in a couple weeks (March 23). I cannot wait to hear the songs on stage. Should be an amazing night.

  4. Leeann Ward March 7, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    Jonathan, you are a lucky man.

  5. Jordan Stacey March 11, 2013 at 11:03 am

    I’m loving this one too, I’m not sure if it’s my favorite of the year so far but it’s close.

    Anybody else finding this year to be off to a really strong start?
    I already have a few albums that I’m going to have trouble knocking off if better comes out, for my year end list.

    This one
    Ashley Monroe’s ‘Like A Rose’
    Blue Sky Riders’ ‘Finally Home’
    Gary Allan’s ‘Set You Free’
    Holly Williams’ ‘The Highway’
    The Mavericks’ ‘In Time’
    Small Town Pistols’ debut

    Even Tim McGraw, Katie Armiger and Jaida Dreyer turn in some good albums. With Kacey Musgraves, Randy Rogers Band, Natalie Maines, Maggie Rose, LeAnn Rimes, George Strait, Crystal Bowersox, & The Band Perry all on the way I’m sure this’ll be one of my favorite years in a while. Still have to check out Carrie Rodriguez’s new one and Caitlin Rose’s will have to be checked out as well.

  6. Pingback: Occasional Hope’s top 10 albums of 2013 | My Kind of Country

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