Houston Kid

Rodney Crowell
Houston Kid

By John DeFore

There's surely something to please every country music fan (and many of those who stand on the sidelines) when it comes to Houston-born, Nashville-tested Rodney Crowell.

He has written and produced huge mainstream hits, and has been integral to the career of Rosanne Cash - both in his presence (as co-songwriter and producer) and in his absence (the breakup of the pair's marriage inspired some of Cash's best work). As a solo artist, he showed a mastery of Nashville's slick '80s aesthetic without skimping on songcraft, then resurfaced in the last few years with records that were both more soul-searching and more in tune with contemporary anti-glitz sensibilities than his older work.

Rodney Crowell

Will Kimbrough and
Jon Christopher Davis

Friday, May 7
Gruene Hall,
1281 Gruene, Texas

His latest record, Fate's Right Hand, may be his finest to date, full of memorable tunes that balance some serious introspection with a sharp awareness of the world outside. While evaluating what he has done with his own life, the songwriter sets his moral standards high without losing his sense of humor ("Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and Minnie Pearl knew/to do unto others the things you want done unto you") and in the most likable song on the album, acknowledges that treasures both "high" and "low" (the Dalai Lama and Charlie Brown, in this case) make the world a place worth living in. It's a fine sounding record as well, upbeat but not too shiny.

Finally, for those who like their country populism to be more thought-through than Limbaughtomized, Crowell is one of a few courageous Nashvillites voicing opposition to our country's current foreign policy. As part of a group called the Music Row Democrats, he is encouraging like-minded musicians to stop apologizing for their beliefs, even if it means a bit of a backlash from CMT. More power to him, and here's hoping music lovers of all political stripes can find their way to Gruene this weekend. •

By John DeFore

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