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Rodney Crowell

The Houston Kid – 2001 (Sugar Hill)

Reviewed by Joel Bernstein

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CDs by Rodney Crowell

Rodney Crowell has had a much lower profile in the '90's, and now accepts being an Americana artist. "The Houston Kid" has a fresh, though sometimes very sparse, sound. The album revolves around Crowell's Houston childhood and is considerably more personal, lyrically darker and musically slower than his earlier, more commercial, efforts. One notable exception to the mood is "I Walk The Line (Revisited)" featuring a guest appearance by his ex-father-in-law (and originally released as a single several years ago). That track is followed by the disc's oddest moment, the recitation "Highway 17." However, the album is dominated by slower, but tuneful numbers such as "I Wish It Would Rain" and "U Don't Know How Much I Hate U." The only other uptempo number is "Topsy Turvy," a song about domestic violence that is much more realistic and hence much more frightening than the Dixie Chicks' "Goodbye Earl."

This album is, in its own way, a brilliant piece of work which should deservedly reap Crowell his greatest critical acclaim. But it's not the mainstream country music of any year.