Having Jeff Tweedy (a fan) produce Rodney Crowell's "The Chicago Sessions," was a smart move. He doesn't over embellish these 10 fine songs, which don't need any gussying up. It finds Crowell expressing gratitude, beginning with the upbeat opener, "Lucky," and continuing with one about the power of love, which posits that - no matter what life may bring – being loved will get you through it all. Crowell sings these songs, most of which he wrote, quite well as always. He still has plenty to say, we're happy to report.
Oddly, one of the best songs, "No Place To Fall, which is played gently with piano and banjo accompaniment, is not Crowell's own. Instead, this one was written by the wonderful Townes Van Zandt, instead. It includes standout lines, like: "Time is a fast old train/She's here and she's gone, and she won't come again." Once again, it finds Crowell meditating upon the passing of time and not letting the good things pass him by. He's been a fan of Van Zandt's music, going way back to when he and Townes were up and coming Texas singer/songwriters. It's taking him a little while to lay down his own version of this gem.
Tweedy shares vocals on one song, "Everything At Once," and it's sweet to hear these two harmonizing together. Life moves so fast, this song suggests, especially just when you're trying to slow down, stop and smell the roses. Crowell doesn't sound like he's going to give in to the ever-pressing tide of time and let that push him rudely.
It's heartening to hear new music from one of our best songwriters, where its contents are consistently up to Crowell's high standards. If the music he makes is always this good, he can return to Chicago whenever he likes.