The Williamson County resident multi-GRAMMY award winning Rodney Crowell is set to release Close Ties on March 31st via New West Records. The 10-song set is his first album in over three years and follows The Traveling Kind, his acclaimed collection of duets with longtime collaborator Emmylou Harris.
Co-produced by Jordan Lehning and Kim Buie, the album features a duet with Sheryl Crow on the haunting “I’m Tied To Ya,” and “It Ain’t Over Yet,” a vocal collaboration with his ex-wife Rosanne Cash and John Paul White.
Close Ties both demonstrates Crowell’s strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. It’s at once his most intimate record and his most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter – and be entered by – life. Close Ties is a loose concept record that ranges from songs about Crowell’s childhood in Texas (“East Houston Blues”) to songs about arriving in Nashville as a young songwriter (“Nashville 1972”) to songs about friends (the anguished “Life Without Susanna”) and lovers lost (“Forgive Me, Annabelle”).
It is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back into the alternative country scene of the early seventies that included Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle, and more. But it defies easy classification. Is it country? Is it a singer-songwriter record?
“I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it – Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell – share a common thread, and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me,” said Crowell. One trait of a poet and the concept behind Close Ties involved the careful handling of memory. “A few years ago I made a record called The Houston Kid that triggered Chinaberry Sidewalks (Crowell’s 2011 memoir),” he says. “Those memory muscles are pretty strong in me. They have a natural pull. And so many of these songs use those memories as raw material.”
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he has moved into elder-statesman territory. His songs have been recorded by country legends (Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, George Strait), to current country chart toppers (Tim McGraw, Keith Urban) to blues icons (Etta James) to rock and roll legends (Van Morrison, Bob Seger).
Take a listen to “East Houston Blues” from the Close Ties album.