Listen Up: Wednesday, September 10, 2003
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Rodney Crowell

Fate’s Right Hand (Epic Records)

By Jeff Prince

From the get-go, it’s obvious that Rodney Crowell took a new path on Fate’s Right Hand, his 11th and most insightful album. The songs journey inside a vulnerable man who braked a successful touring career in the mid-1990s to spend more time with his family. The slowdown left him time to muse, and his mental flights have apparently ended up as songs that touch on living, loving, high stakes, bad breaks, panic attacks, midlife contemplations, limitations, and rising above them all. One mark of an excellent album is for a listener to be able to enjoy the lyric sheet without the music, and Crowell’s words stand alone with ease. But he has also crafted melodies that match and accentuate his lyrics. Fate’s Right Hand doesn’t offer much of the commercial country-pop that provided Crowell his reputation as a hitmaker. The guy who wrote upbeat classics such as “Ain’t Living Long Like This” (recorded by Waylon Jennings), “Stars on the Water” (Jimmy Buffet), and “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” (Oak Ridge Boys) has strayed from what brung him and delved deeper, with inspiring and enjoyable results. Fate’s reflections on the here and now offer a bookend to Crowell’s 2001 release, The Houston Kid, a journey into his past.

The main hitch with this c.d. — or any Rodney Crowell c.d. — is his high and thin voice. High and thin works for supermodels but not necessarily country singers, unless you’ve got tons of soul and your name starts with Hank and ends with Williams. Crowell’s voice served him splendidly as a harmony singer with Emmylou Harris and others early in his career but has held him back as a solo artist. Still, the voice doesn’t defeat this collection of songs that adds another notch to Crowell’s solid reputation as a lyricist, performer, and producer.


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