Listening to Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell sing together on "The Traveling Kind," their second recent duet album together, is like visiting with old friends. Crowell is a seasoned songwriter, while Harris is relatively new - but nevertheless a quick study - to the writing game, and the songwriting is strong on this album, from start to finish.
The moods range from weepy country ballads, like "No Memories Hanging Round," to more upbeat tracks, such as the chugging "Bring It On Home To Memphis" and Ray Charles-esque, electric piano-driven "The Weight of the World." Although many of these songs were newly written by Harris and Crowell, one of the covers, Lucinda Williams' "I Just Wanted To See You So Bad," is a real winner. It may not have been a big hit, the way Williams "Passionate Kisses" was for Mary Chapin Carpenter, but it's always been a favorite of Williams' fans and sounds great as sung by these two veteran voices.
One of this album's best tracks is also one of its simplest. With Crowell taking the lead, "Just Pleasing You" has the feel of a great old Hank Williams Sr. tear-jerker - only it's actually a great old Crowell song. With so much contemporary country seemingly trying too hard to keep up sonically with contemporary pop and rock radio, it's easy to forget how beautiful sparse, yet heartfelt country like this example can sound. Of course, Harris joins in with those haunting harmonies of hers, which have heightened the quality of so many recordings over the years, leading to the nearly perfect country recording.
With two distinctive voices such as these, and a topnotch batch of songs, it's nearly impossible to go wrong. And "The Traveling Kind" travels in grand style.