Over the past 30 years, Rodney Crowell's songs have been recorded by everyone from The Grateful Dead to Andy Williams to his one-time father-in-law, the late Johnny Cash. But the hit songwriter says he never sits down and tries to write a country song, pop song or bluegrass song - he just writes songs. VOA's Katherine Cole has details of Rodney Crowell's new CD, Fate's Right Hand.
Fate's Right Hand opens with Still Learning How To Fly, a song about living for the moment. Rodney Crowell wrote the song for a friend who had terminal cancer, and the track sets the emotional tone for the album full of songs exploring topics such as death, anxiety, world politics and global destruction.
Rodney Crowell's last release, 2001's The Houston Kid, was his first in nearly six years. It was seen as a comeback for an artist who had been at the top of country music since the late 1970s, but had taken time off to raise a family. On The Houston Kid, Rodney revisited his past. While his new CD is also autobiographical, it deals with the present, not only of his own life, but also the lives of those around him.
When asked what inspired the phrase, "My self-importance is a godforsaken bore", in the song Preaching to the Choir, he responded that fragment of a lyric came to him one day out of the blue. He began building on it, and six verses later had a completed song.
Preaching To The Choir is not the only song in which Rodney Crowell paints a less than flattering picture of himself. He catalogs a list of flaws in The Man In Me, and talks of the negativity you sometimes find when looking deeply into your own soul. Time to Go Inward delves into the same subject, and Crowell uses several different musical styles to make his points. You could call this a folk song about seeing, a country song about acceptance, or consider it simply a song about the fear of what you might find when taking such a deep look inside.
While Rodney Crowell sat atop the country music charts for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he does not regard that time as the best of his career. The singer and songwriter considers his time away to be the richest, as it allowed him time for introspection.
When he was ready to get back to work, he dug deep into his own pocket to make the critically-acclaimed CD, The Houston Kid. For Fate's Right Hand, he says he took out a loan and paid for his own studio time, rather than sign a contract with a record company. Despite the personal costs and difficulties that come along with working as an independent musician, Crowell says his last two albums are "far better than the work I was being congratulated and given lots of money for. I'm doing the work now that I wanted to be doing then, and that I dreamed I would do."
Fate's Right Hand closes with a cut that manages to be both light and touching. While This Too Will Pass was written for his youngest daughter, the song is also a tribute to George Harrison, who died on the day Crowell recorded it.