Rodney Crowell July 27 2005
In a former career, Rodney Crowell was famous for making hits for others, especially ex-wife Rosanne Cash and ex-employer Emmylou Harris. Although his songs never comfortably fit the standard Nashville outline, dozens of acts covered his earlier work, bringing it to C&W's mainstream.
The Outsider, Crowell's third album in a career renaissance, finds the singer/songwriter combining political concepts with an introspective approach he has embraced in this recent segment of his 25 years of making music. The album's title shows how he now perceives himself, both as a left-leaning Southerner and a recording artist.
That autobiographical concept bleeds into the music, infusing the predominantly twang-free sound with an honest, hardscrabble quality.
Bob Dylan's spirit hovers nearby a songwriter to be revered in songs like "Beautiful Despair" and "Shelter from the Storm," a Dylan cover featuring Harris.
"Democracy won't work if you're asleep," sings Crowell on the self-explanatory "We Can't Turn Back," encapsulating the concurrent themes of introspection and a world gone awry, set to melodies that reverberate with the immediacy of front-page news.