Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
Old Yellow Moon
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
It might have seemed a risky move for rhythm guitarist/songwriter Rodney Crowell to leave the comfort of Emmylou Harris’ terrific Hot Band back in 1977. In Harris he had a near perfect vocal vehicle for now classic tunes such as “Ain’t Living Long Like This” and “Till I Gain Control Again.” But the gamble ultimately paid off with Crowell becoming a successful solo crossover country/roots artist who now returns to share the marquee with his old boss… after a 36 year absence. From Gram Parsons to Linda Ronstadt and Mark Knopfler, Harris has historically thrived with duet partners. The result is this sublime album that features a handful of new Crowell tracks, some well-chosen, obscure covers, production from Brian Ahern (Harris’ ex-husband and early producer) and members of the original Hot Band. Every track features both distinctive voices, the playing shimmers and it’s all as tasteful as anything in the twosome’s bulging catalogs. An excess of lovely if somewhat snoozy ballads such as Matraca Berg’s somber treatise on aging “Back When We Were Beautiful” and restrained playing that rounds off too many rough edges prevents this from being an unqualified success. Crowell’s new songs are pleasant but don’t compare with his best work. If you’re a fan of either of these musicians though, you’ll delight in this classy collaboration. The reunion was a long time coming and exudes the tasteful sophistication and sympathetic camaraderie you’d expect from this pair of veterans reveling in each other’s presence.