thu 01/10/2020

CD: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind

CD: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell - The Traveling Kind

Satisfying second album from two imperishable country stars

A pairing whose history is clearly displayed

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell first put out a joint album only a couple of years ago but their association goes way back, before either’s mainstream US fame. Crowell was working closely with Harris as long ago as the mid-Seventies, still within immediate memory of the latter’s folk origins and groundbreaking partnership with Gram Parsons. He later found major success Stateside but has never been renowned in Europe like Harris.

Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell first put out a joint album only a couple of years ago but their association goes way back, before either’s mainstream US fame. Crowell was working closely with Harris as long ago as the mid-Seventies, still within immediate memory of the latter’s folk origins and groundbreaking partnership with Gram Parsons. He later found major success Stateside but has never been renowned in Europe like Harris. Perhaps it’s their steadfast friendship that makes The Traveling Kind such easy-going and pleasing listening.

Harris can always write and deliver a decent song but followers of her work often have to wade through acres of strings, schmaltz and Nashville polish to get to them. This is not the case here. The production is boisterous, earthy although never lo-fi, and the pair sound engaged. Even country ballads, such as “Higher Mountains” and “Her Hair Was Red” have a spectral echo, going for something faintly cosmic rather than country and western’s usual tendency towards sentimentalism. The latter song was originally written by jazzman Mose Allison’s country-singing daughter Amy back in 2006, and there’s a tiny tint of jazz throughout, amid the instrumentation on The Traveling Kind. This is especially notable on the bluesy “Weight of the World”, with its walking bassline, Doors-ish keys and ballsy guitar solo.

Elsewhere they relish straightforward rock’n’roll on “Bring It On Home to Memphis” but fans of archetypal country are also in for a treat. The steel guitar on “No Memories Hanging Around” provides the perfect counterweight to Harris’s pleading vocals. The only weak cut is the miscalculated, accordion-assisted Cajun hoedown of the closing “La danse de la joie” which is spirited but comes over as a worthy attempt rather than a glorious success. The same cannot be said of the other 10 songs, which include five Crowell/Harris originals. The Traveling Kind is in the same league as their last outing, perhaps more spirited, and certainly a match for anything in either singer's recent solo back catalogue.

Overleaf: Listen to "Bring It On Home to Memphis"

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