Not long after she asked him to join her band as rhythm guitarist and harmony singer in the legendary Hot Band which also featured Albert Lee, John Ware, Emory Gordy, Jr., Glen D. Hardin and Hank DeVito.
A 40-year friendship followed and although they both went on to have successful solo careers their paths would often cross and it was only recently that they finally recorded an album together.
Released in 2013 Old Yellow Moon received critical acclaim and would go on to win a Grammy Award (‘Best Americana Album’) and two awards at the Americana Music Association Honors & Awards Show (‘Album of the Year’ and ‘Duo/Group of the Year’). It also included the track that first connected the two artists and saw them come full circle with a reworking of Bluebird Wine.
Harris felt the same, “We’ve always said from the first time we sat down with two guitars and our two lead voices, sitting on the floor of the studio and singing Don Gibson songs, just messing around, that we would do a record together someday. It seemed inevitable, but nothing is really inevitable if you don’t take the time to say, ‘All right, we’re going to do it.’ It was always something that was going to happen. I’m glad it’s happening now, at this point of our lives and our careers.”
Due for release on 11 May from Nonesuch Records is their new 11-track album The Traveling Kind. Crowell has written, or co-written, nine of the songs with new interpretations of two more written by Lucinda Williams (I Just Wanted To See You So Bad) and Amy Allison (Her Hair Was Red).
Among the tracks is a great version of Crowell’s No Memories Hanging Around, a track that was recorded by Rosanne Cash and Bobby Bare and had appeared on her 1980 album Right Or Wrong. They sing about one of my favourite American cities in the up-tempo Bring It On Home To Memphis and their voices blend together beautifully on You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try. There is a touch of humour at the end of The Weight Of The World, when you hear Crowell ask, “Did you guys record that?” to which someone replies, “If only we had.” The beautiful Higher Mountains is followed by Lucinda Williams I Just Wanted To See You So Bad and then a track Crowell had recorded previously back in 2012. Just Pleasing You had been written by Crowell and Mary Karr, the American poet and best-selling author, and had appeared on the album Kin where Crowell was joined by Vince Gill. The penultimate track is Amy Allison’s Her Hair Was Red, featuring a sublime vocal from Harris with great support from Crowell. The album is brought to a close with La Danse de la Joie, a Cajun-style song with accordian backing and some great singing in French from both artists.
Harris and Crowell are supported by a great band that includes guitarist and multi-instrumentalist Steuart Smith and keyboard player Billy Payne.
The album has already received glowing reviews – “Harris and Crowell never sounded so good. Some of the best work of their careers” (Q), Harris and Crowell are hard-wired for good taste and seem constitutionally incapable of making a weak record” (Chicago Tribune) and Rolling Stone, who premiered the title track, wrote, “The Traveling Kind, set to a nostalgic, chugging beat, carves the path for the record, which floats from Memphis grooves to classic, country-infused folk ballads, telling stories of love, struggles and the very special art of confessing to both through lyric.” They went on to say, “… they’ve built their legacies with melodies, lyrics and timeless voices that lace together the most permanent of humanity’s living records.”
It is hard to pick out any particular tracks for special mention but my own personal favourites are No Memories Hanging Around, Bring It On Home To Memphis, I Just Wanted To See You So Bad, You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try and the title track.
If, like me, you are a fan of Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell and enjoyed Old Yellow Moon then you are going to love this new album.
Thanks to Richard Wootton (Richard Wootton Publicity)