When: Wed., March 20, 8 p.m. 2013
Texas-bred singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell got his break in the biz when Emmylou Harris recorded one of his tunes, “Till I Gain Control Again,” and then invited him to join her Hot Band in 1975. He only stuck around for a couple years before launching his own successful career, but he and Harris have stayed in touch—they’re sharing the spotlight on the lovely new duet collection Old Yellow Moon (Nonesuch), where they explore many strains of American roots music, including the swinging honky-tonk of Roger Miller’s “Invitation to the Blues,” Kris Kristofferson’s Everly Brothers-flavored “Chase the Feeling,” and the witty coffee-addiction blues “Black Caffeine.” The album features a few new Crowell gems, but nothing here will surprise fans of either artist—fortunately they sound so good together that no surprises are necessary.
The duo is touring with British singer-songwriter Richard Thompson, who visited Nashville to record his excellent new Electric (New West) with producer Buddy Miller, who improves everything he touches. The muscular rhythm section of bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome lays down the foundation of the lean-sounding album, with occasional embroidery by Miller and Nashville pals such as fiddler Stuart Duncan and upright bassist Dennis Crouch (bluegrass star Alison Krauss also adds beautiful vocal harmonies to “The Snow Goose”). As usual for Thompson, though, the heart of the music is his scathingly witty lyrics and even more caustic guitar. “Stony Ground” describes a horny old Peeping Tom who can’t keep his mind off a neighbor’s “honey pot” even after her brother beats him up and leaves him bleeding in the gutter. And the wounded narrators in “Good Things Happen to Bad People” (a self-pitying, insecure husband who’s driving away his wife) and “Another Small Thing in Her Favour” (a man who begrudgingly mentions some of the finer qualities of the woman who’s leaving him) bristle with such anger and resentment that it ends up indicting them. Thompson’s songwriting has always been acidic, but his performances on Electric—where his jagged, wiry guitar solos are more ferocious than they’ve been in years—provide sounds to match his words. —Peter Margasak