A neatly timed appetite-whetting release in decent advance of a very brief UK tour (that means just three dates including Cropredy!) comes this latest collaboration between the two country legends who’ve been good pals now for close on 40 years but didn’t manage to make an album together until Old Yellow Moon, which came out a fraction over a couple of years ago and at times resembled nothing less than those classic Emmylou-and-Gram recordings made prior to Crowell’s joining the Hot Band back in ’75.
The Traveling Kind doesn’t invoke quite the same musical comparison, but that’s no bad thing as it still contains a good quotient of exemplary duet singing of the made-in-heaven, meant-to-be-togetherness brand, in what might be termed true old-school country tradition. And this time round I’d say that for much of the time the soaring croon of Crowell’s voice more than anything else sounds uncannily like early Roy Orbison, particularly so I felt on the opening three tracks and most of all on No Memories Hanging ’Round (first done by Rosanna Cash and Bobby Bare back in ’79, y’ recall) And there’s no denying that Harris is herself in splendid voice here too.
The majority of the eleven tracks are done as true duets, while six of them are brand new songs penned jointly by Harris and Crowell. So far so good – and these new offerings are well up to the standard of previous successes. They range across the emotional spectrum, from the cheeky domestic romp of If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now and the easy-rolling title number to You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try (a steel-soaked lament in the classic mould) and the infectious bouncy cajun good-time groove of La Danse De La Joie, which closes the disc in fine style. One unusual stylistic departure is the funky stride-shuffle of The Weight Of The World, which features some really tasty soloing (Wurlitzer from Feat’s Bill Payne and electric guitar from The Glory Band’s Jedd Hughes).
The disc’s pair of covers contains one of the disc’s highlights, Amy Allison’s Her Hair Was Red, which receives a tender, limpid reading that really tugs at the heartstrings; however, Lucinda Williams’ I Just Wanted To See You So Bad, while suitably gutsily rendered, nevertheless feels just a tad lightweight by comparison with the Allison, or indeed with the wealth of sterling Crowell-penned material comprising the rest of the disc. Accomplished, almost effortless-sounding musical accompaniments are the order of the day (hey, the sessions were done over a mere six-day span!), and Joe Henry’s finely graded production is a reliable constant. Maybe there’s a couple of minor miscalculations: the slightly sugary setting provided for torchy lonesome ballad Higher Mountains for instance, or the rather stagey interpolated spoken interlude on Bring It On Home To Memphis. But by and large, fans of either or both of the protagonists will not have occasion to be disappointed by this well-upholstered new set.
Review by: David Kidman
Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell UK & Ireland Dates
12 July – Bristol, Colston Hall
17 July – Gateshead, SummerTyne Festival
19 July – Dublin,National Concert Hall
13 August – Cropredy Festival
Out Now via Nonesuch
Order via Amazon