Nothing New, but Nothing to Pass Up
Rodney Crowell is a name any country music fan undoubtedly knows. When you’re discussing an artist as prolific as Crowell, there are a few things you can expect before pressing play: the songwriting is going to be meaningful and carry its own merit; the recording is going to sound pristine; and overall you can expect the album to be, at the very least, good. Tarpaper Sky certainly does not skip over any of these. Crowell was born in Crosby, Texas in 1950, and moved to Nashville in 1972 where he got a job as a songwriter and began his career in music. Recently, he has released his fourteenth album of his 36 years as a recording artist.
The album starts off with “The Long Journey Home,” a classic country ballad that showcases Crowell’s songwriting prowess. This melancholy tune, as the title suggests, hungers for a return home– a return to normal. It marks a great beginning for the album, preparing one for the barrage of classic, small town country music that may just make you feel at home. “Frankie Please” is a throwback to the old honky-tonk country sound, complete with guitar tone and riffs not heard since the ’90s. Crowell’s singing is too fast and slightly mumbled to be fully understood, but the the auctioneer-style rambling that has been lost in country music for the past few decades is a cool sort of nostalgic pleasantry. “God I’m Missing You” is a soft heart-bleeding ballad that could put the most chipper of people sunken in their seat. The instrumentation is sparse enough to keep the sound somber.
“Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love” is most disappointing for its title, and why not? Every genre, maybe even sub-genre, has a song that shares the “Famous Last Words” theme. It is cliché and over-used, which is something that almost ruins the tag. That is not to say that this song isn’t worth hearing– it certainly is. Duets are probably where Crowell shines brightest, and this song is no exception to it.
The album continues along with a very predictable and set theme. Rodney Crowell has been recording country music successfully for nearly forty years. This album is another showcase and evidence that good country music still is made and does exist, contrary to the belief of the angry-at-pop-radio teens that populate the Internet’s many music discussion boards. The songs feature a tried and true series of standard country instrumentation coupled with lyrics that reflect standard country themes — love, loss, Jesus and family.
The bottom line is this is a Rodney Crowell album. It is a great country album, as one would expect from him. If you are looking for something that takes country music and pilots it somewhere else, then you might want to skip out and revisit Spirits and the Melchizedek Children. But if you’re interested in a classic and timeless country sound, this is what you want.