Country,  Roots Rock

ACL Highlight: Rodney Crowell

The first full set I caught at this year’s Austin City Limits festival was Rodney Crowell. It was 12:30 in the afternoon on Friday. Maybe it was the combination of a sunny day, a cold beer, good friends, and the opening day of a great music festival in Austin, but Crowell’s set was a thing of beauty.

Crowell, accompanied only by Will Kimbrough on guitar, and Jenny Scheinman on violin, delighted the crowd with some great tunes. Thing is, Rodney is such a great storyteller, he has a way of keeping you on the edge of your seat, anticipating where the story is going next. All the while, these stories are embedded in the sorts of wonderful, rootsy melodies that Crowell has been creating for decades.

There were a few highlights for me. First was Scheinman on violin, who got to showcase her stuff in her own tune, and launched into a killer violin solo – yes killer violin solo – on “Wandering Boy”, also with some great interplay with Crowell’s acoustic…the ending violin strokes had the entire crowd entranced.

Crowell’s “Earthbound” was another favorite, but it was two sublime new ones that stood out this afternoon… consider the first verse of the closing song, “Closer to Heaven”…

I don’t like humus
I hate long lines
Nosy neighbours and the nation blind
Chirpy news anchors alter my mood
I’m offended by buzz words
Like awesome and dude
I look like a trainwreck
I feel like a blob
Till you get to know me
You may think I’m a snob
But I’m closer to heaven
Than I’ve ever been

It’s lyrics like these interwoven in a beatiful song that is the magic of Rodney Crowell.

The other song that affected me was “Moving Work of Art”. It has that Townes Van Zandt / Steve Earle finger pickin’ ballad feel (both Townes and Earle spent a lot of time with Rodney back in the day) – and the love-lost lyrics hit you right where it hurts…

Time is jammed and flying fast
the brakes are bad and the potholes rough
I’m out here running from the past
What we had was not enough
Heard she just touched down in Hollywood
And her friends all say she’s looking good
I saw it coming from the start
She’s a moving work of art

Beautiful stuff. The studio version is great, but doesn’t hold a candle to seeing and hearing Rodney perform the song live. He’s out on the road supporting his latest record, Sex and Gasoline (awesome cover!). Rodney Crowell is one of those underrated living legends, and I recommend the show…

Rodney Crowell Moving Work of Art (mp3)

Rodney CrowellEarthbound (mp3)

From Fate’s Right Hand

Links: Official Site | MySpace

Set List
Austin City Limits Music Festival, September 26, 2008

The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design
I Want You #35
Moving Work of Art
Sex & Gasoline
U Don’t Know How Much I Hate U
I Wish It Would Rain
Wandering Boy
Untitled Julie Scheinman Cover
Fate’s Right Hand
Closer to Heaven


  • Eric

    Sounds like a great show – I’ve been a huge fan of his since, shit – since he was in Emmylou’s band. He’s one of our finest somgwriters.
    Great ACL pics, by the way – I’d love to make it there someday.
    I am more than a little guilty of not commenting (re: your AC/DC post). Sorry man – I read, get busy…no excuse. Keep up the good work on one of the finest music blogs out there, and I promise to not be so negligent in the future. Take care, and I hope your family is well.
    Eric in Spokane

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