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Rodney Crowell

Close Ties – 2017 (New West)

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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CDs by Rodney Crowell

One song on Rodney Crowell's "Close Ties" album is called "I Don't Care Anymore." It's a song when a person comes to term with aging, where what others think of you simply doesn't really matter much in the grand scheme of things. However, if Crowell truly didn't care about others' opinions, he wouldn't have created such a fine album. He cared enough to give us the very best, to borrow an advertising slogan, and we should especially thankful for how very much he cares.

He may be past his 'young and cool' phase in life, but Crowell is certainly not beyond understanding the magnetic pull of temptation. One noteworthy song, "Reckless," finds Crowell drinking at a hotel bar and contemplating straying from the straight and narrow, even though he's knows full well how good he's got it with his wife at home. The song's lyric reveals how, even when we can easily and quickly add up our many blessings on the spot, we can sometimes foolishly choose to throw it all away in seconds, for mere seconds of pleasure. Alternately, with vocal help from Sheryl Crow, Crowell sings of beautiful fidelity on "I'm Tied to Ya."

While some of these songs cause Crowell to use his vast, creative imagination to picture the lives of others, many others are obviously biographical. "East Houston Blues" speaks of Crowell's tough Texas upraising. On "Nashville 1972," Crowell sings of that fertile time back when this talented songwriter joined many other highly skilled songsmiths (including the late Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt) in that guitar town to help create some of music city's best ever music.

With all the horrible, indistinguishable music clogging up the mainstream country airwaves, it can be mighty tempting to simply give up caring about it. Crowell, though, gives us plenty of good reasons to still care about the country songwriting craft with this wonderful new effort. These are close ties that bind in all the best ways.