musings on music, travel, books, and life from Southeast Asia

Posts tagged ‘Rodney Crowell’

Hot Weather & Cool Music

It’s April, one of the hottest months of the year here in Thailand, or anywhere in Southeast Asia for that matter. For the past month, I’m witness to an almost daily occurrence; customers walking into my bookshop, either sweating profusely or complaining about the heat. Yes, it’s very hot out there, but it occurs to me that some of these folks wouldn’t sweat as much if they weren’t wearing all black or heavy fabrics that don’t breathe in this tropical climate. It’s Thailand, not Northern England, so dress appropriately!


To comfort all those heat-stricken souls I run the air conditioner continuously at my shop, but when I’m at home alone I opt not to turn on the AC. Hey, I’m from Florida; hot and humid feels natural to me! But it’s not like I prefer to sit and sweat the whole time. At home, I turn on the ceiling fans and open the windows to let a nice breeze flow through my ninth floor corner apartment. And that’s enough to keep me cool. Of course it also helps that I walk around the room wearing nothing but a loincloth. But whether I’m at home or work, music is always playing; yet another way to keep cool, at least emotionally. Here is this month’s list of CDs playing in heavy rotation at my place:


Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell – Old Yellow Moon

Dawes – Stories Don’t End

James Iha – Look To the Sky

Neil Young – Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968

Eddi Reader – Candyfloss and Medicine


Various Artists – Eccentric Soul: Nickel and Penny Labels

Grant Green – Latin Bit

R. Dean Taylor – Essential Collection  

Joe Henderson – Page One

Tift Merritt – Traveling Alone


Trombone Shorty – For True

Velvet Crush – Free Expression

The Scene is Now – Total Jive

Bill Fay – Bill Fay

Mary Chapin Carpenter – Ashes and Roses


Ray Stinnett – A Fire Somewhere

Kool and The Gang – Live at P.J.’s

Camper Van Beethoven – La Costa Perdida

Graham Gouldman – Love and Work

Bob Mould – Poison Years


Paul Kossoff – Backstreet Crawler (Deluxe Edition)

Lou Bond – Lou Bond

TV on the Radio – Return to Cookie Mountain

Various Artists – Miami Sound: Rare Funk & Soul

Larry Young – Unity


Leon Thomas – The Creator: 1969-73

Yo La Tengo – Fade

Sugarman Three – Pure Cane Sugar

UB40 – Present Arms

Colin Blunstone – I Don’t Believe I Miracles


Clarence Carter – The Fame Singles Volume 1 1966-70

The Lumineers – The Lumineers

Charles & Eddie – Duophonic

Menahan Street Band – Make the Road by Walking

Kenny Burrell – Midnight Blue


Greg Kihn Band – Best of Beserkley ’75-‘84

The Waterboys – A Pagan Place

The Sneetches – 1985-1991

The Explorers Club – Freedom Wind

Cass McCombs – Wit’s End


Heartworn Highways

It’s late December, 1975, and a group of musicians have gotten together to perform a few songs. This bunch of singer-songwriters were all young men, all based in the American Southwest (mostly from Texas), still relatively unknown to the music world, but in the words of this album’s producer, ones who “were beginning to change the landscape of country music.” What these musicians were offering was definitely not your traditional brand of hillbilly country, but something that was later dubbed “outlaw country” or even “progressive country.” More whiskey and Texas chili, as opposed to grits and biscuits.

Whatever the label, you could safely say, without exaggeration, that this was one of the greatest collections of singer-songwriters ever assembled; a jaw-dropping group of young mavericks that included Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell, John Hiatt, Steve Earle, and Steve Young. Throw in interesting characters like Larry Jon Wilson, Gamble Rogers, and David Alan Coe, and the atmosphere becomes even more intoxicating — in more ways than one! The CD clocks in at nearly 80 minutes, offering stunning performances such as Van Zandt’s classic “Pancho and Lefty,” a few Guy Clark gems (“L.A. Freeway” and “Desperadoes Waiting for a Train”), Crowell’s “Bluebird Wine,” and Coe’s surprisingly tender “I Still Sing the Old Songs.”

Although the film was made in 1976, it’s not clear why it took over 30 years for these recordings to surface. But thanks to efforts by the label, the album’s producer, and sound engineers, a “meticulous audio restoration” was undertaken and the result is an incredible album. It sounds like you are right in the room with these guys, listening to history being made. Not only is this a priceless audio snapshot of great musicians during their formative years, it’s also a thrilling listening experience. And it may cause some listeners to redefine what they think of as country music. 


There is also a documentary companion to Heartworn Highways that contains even more music, including performances by Charlie Daniels. But it’s apparently now out of print and the last time I checked on Amazon, even used copies were selling for well over a hundred dollars. Have to patiently wait for a reissue or more affordable offerings.

The biggest musical contributor to Heartworn Highways — at least the one with the most songs — was Guy Clark, at that time a young songwriter who had just released his first two albums, both of them flawless collections of well-crafted songs; Old No. 1 and Texas Cookin’. Pick any song off either of those albums and you have a classic. Really, it’s hard to think of an artist, in any genre, who had two better albums to launch a career. Although Guy Clark is perhaps best known as a songwriter whose songs have been covered by hundreds of other artists, he’s also a very good singer and the power of his songs are not diminished at all by having him perform them. Which I think, was one reason why fellow troubadour Townes Van Zandt never made it big. Townes was a great songwriter, no question about it, but his vocals took some getting used to. And while Guy Clark is no Willie Nelson in the vocals department, he’s much smoother than Townes. 

For yet another glimpse into the great songs and personalities of these musicians, check out Together at the Bluebird Café, a live album recorded in 1995 with contributions from Guy Clark, Townes Van Zandt, and Steve Earle. Wonderful tunes performed in small venue with some great between songs patter helps gives this album a refreshing down-to-earth homey vibe. This was also one of the last times the three shared a stage; Van Zandt passed away less than two years later.


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