Tuesday, July 4, 2017


Couldn't resist. Or at least I think I couldn't, but maybe not. Fate. Kismet. Call it what you will, it's all pre-destined, yeah? Maybe.

In keeping with my last posting, I thought I would again follow on the dextrous direction that began with red and was followed by the devil. In truth, I am not sure of what fate's right hand, or indeed left, might mean, or how they may differ, unless the former is the butter side up, the latter, butter side down. Indeed, is luck the same as fate? Is fate the same as luck? I am uncertain whether this metaphysical troubled Rodney Crowell much when writing the song. It just sorta sounds good, the lyric then being one of those stream of consciousness lists like Reasons to be Cheerful (right hand) or We Didn't Start the Fire (left hand), the words as important for their order and sound as their meaning, yet entirely also dependent thereupon. Clever, if confusing.

Rodney Crowell feels to have been around forever in my musical lifetime, first as the callow youth alongside Emmylou Harris in her Hot Band, writing the knock-out (and album stand-out) side one closer, Till' I Gain Control Again, on Elite Hotel. That was back in 1975, and he has kept on keeping on. Marrying into country royalty, becoming husband to Roseanne, daughter of Johnny, Cash in 1979, until 1992, will have done no harm either, but he was already successfully penning material for a range of significant other artists, including Bob Seger, as well as a roster of more typical country performers. Having had limited success with his solo records, he effectively put his career on hold to helm her own, writing much of the material and producing. In the 80's he hit his own paydirt, with a run of records that cemented his reputation. 1988's Diamonds and Dirt managed 5 (country) number ones alone. Here's one of 'em.

However, for me it is his later trio of recordings, starting with The Houston Kid, in 2001, that hold the strongest appeal. Biographical in style, I strongly commend these three, with Fate's Right Hand, containing the eponymous song of this piece, and The Outsider making up the triad, now commonly referred to as the Houston trilogy. This period of his life also produced his book, the commendable and likewise autobiographical Chinaberry Sidewalks: a Memoir, covering the same somewhat tumultuous childhood as do the songs. Wonderful stuff. Here's a song:

Into the last decade he has again teamed up with Emmylou Harris, producing a brace of duet albums and going on tour with her, still managing other output as well. This years Close Ties reveals him now to be an elder statesman, performing alongside ex-wife Cash and Sheryl Crow, amongst others. I have seen him twice within the last five years, once with Emmylou, and once as a featured singer with the celebrated Transatlantic Sessions, the show that brings together the best of scots/irish with american musicians, held every year over here in the UK. On both occasions he shone, the grittier counterpoint to Emmylou at the one, and an altogether americana tour de force at the other.

A final word, lest all this talk of country be off-putting. This isn't and never has been any saccharine "& western": his genre has always been in those slightly rougher roadhouses, where rockabilly meets western swing, leaving always room for a weeping steel barroom ballad, ahead of another rousing rocker. I'd like to shake his hand. Right hand.

Choose Rodney!

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