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Crowell remains at top of game

Grammy Museum, Los Angeles, January 23, 2017

Reviewed by Dan MacIntosh

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Rodney Crowell appeared the Grammy Museum to talk about his career as a singer, songwriter and producer. And while it was fascinating hearing Crowell tells stories about learning songwriting craft while bumming around Nashville with Townes Van Zandt, Billy Joe Shaver and his late friend Guy Clark, the true highlight was listening to Crowell sing a few songs from his upcoming album "Close Ties."

If this sampling is an accurate indicator, "Close Ties" ought to be a real winner. Crowell opened with "East Houston Blues," which represents what Crowell called his relatively recent new appreciation for the blues. Better still was "I Don't Care Anymore," a song that speaks to the sort of gained wisdom only seasoned individuals - like Crowell - can appreciate and experience. Crowell also sang a couple of moving songs about loves lost with "Forgive Me Annabelle" and "Life Without Susanna."

Although Crowell appeared to worry too much about keeping his acoustic guitar in tune, apologizing often with each tuning interruption, Crowell was in fine voice and his songwriting skills have never been sharper.

In conversation, Crowell responded to questions about his early songwriting lessons from the likes of Clark, his initial attraction to Rosanne Cash, with whom he was married ("I liked her sophistication") and his work as executive music producer for the Hank Williams biopic "I Saw the Light," where he spent weeks making sure all the Englishness in actor Tom Hiddleston didn't come out when he sang Williams songs in his lead role. He knew Hiddleston had the part down when he could sing with a yodel in his voice, just like Williams.

Although this evening only lasted about an hour and half, it was nevertheless extremely enjoyable to sit in on this conversation with one of music's most talented songwriters. His hair may be gray and his face may be a little more weathered looking than back when Crowell was a young buck member of Emmylou Harris' Hot Band, but his skills have not diminished one iota. In fact, he's clearly still at the top of his game.