Friday, June 17, 2011

Rodney at Bull Run

Sarah and I heard Rodney Crowell's first record (Ain't Living Long Like This) soon after it came out in 1978.  It arrived at my ears at just the right time for my transition from rock/blues to country/blues and I still consider it one of the best records I've ever heard.  Incongruously, we'd never seen Rodney play, except for perhaps with Emmylou's band.  So we were very eager to hear him at the Bull Run, even when we learned that it would be an "intimate one-man show" where he would sing and read excerpts from his recent memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks.

Well it was a fantastic show and he is an incredible talent in that Texas/Southern singer-songwriter vein that's so valuable in our national character.  He opened with a song we'd never heard before that would have made me perk up my ears wherever I heard it ... incredibly lyrical and passionate at the same time, about stealing a diamond for Janet and what it meant to him.  Then he knocked us over with a Lightning Hopkins cover (Come Back Baby) and then launched right into 'Til I Gain Control Again, one of his classics.

Rodney took a break to talk some and make himself and all of us comfortable with each other.  Then he read us a wonderfully descriptive-of-people passage from his book, in which his mother got the devil driven out of her and he had to deal with it.  Then he got right back up and thrilled us all with a low-down bluesy rendition of the afore-mentioned Ain't Living Long Like This, did some of his later songs (Beautiful Despair) and earlier songs (Ashes By Now), read a couple of more passages, and made the time go by like a soft, humid day.  There was such a beautiful, slow pace to his show and it made me reflect that what I've always valued in him is not just his way of writing an excellent lyric, but his way of presenting it conversationally and then musically.

Rodney's closing number was Pancho and Lefty and he was so sympatico with the audience by then that when the chorus came around he just stepped back from the mike and nodded at us and we all filled the hall, right on time (and mostly on key), with Van Zandt's perfect words.  Sarah and I were exhausted from the Bruins' Stanley Cup victory the night before but wouldn't have missed that concert for the world.

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