Amer­i­cana

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Polly Coufos Tony Hil­lier

Close Ties Rod­ney Crow­ell New West Rod­ney Crow­ell was drawn to Mu­sic City in 1972 with one song he had con­fi­dence in (’ Til I Gain Con­trol Again) and a truck­load of in­se­cu­ri­ties that still weigh him down. He con­tin­ues to de­fer to Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and many more be­sides, as de­tailed in the self-ex­plana­tory closer here, Nashville 1972, yet the qual­ity of his songs shows he is ev­ery bit their equal. Coun­try mu­sic still looms large in Crow­ell’s arse­nal, but not for the first time he shows he is equally at home with blues, folk and rootsy rock. Largely bi­o­graph­i­cal, Close Ties makes for com­pelling if oc­ca­sion­ally un­com­fort­able lis­ten­ing. East Hous­ton Blues is like a page from his mem­oir Chin­aberry Side­walks, the grit of the lyric bal­anced by the beauty of Tommy Em­manuel’s gui­tar. Life With­out Su­sanna re­veals the com­pli­ca­tions of Crow­ell’s re­la­tion­ship with Clark’s wife, Su­sanna, with a pain that shows there are wounds not close to heal­ing. Clearly he has made some kind of peace with ex-wife Rosanne Cash, the sub­ject of his mu­si­cal pub­lic apol­ogy For­give Me Annabelle. Record­ing to­gether for the first time since 1990, Cash ap­pears on It Ain’t Over Yet along with John Paul White. The cen­tre­piece is I Don’t Care Any­more, where an age­ing Lothario is look­ing back at what he’s left be­hind on his way to now. Dis­mis­sive of the shal­low man he once was, the char­ac­ter con­fesses that “40 odd years later all my best cards have been played”.

Like the man in the song, though, who feels a stir­ring when talk­ing to his neigh­bour’s wife, Crow­ell re­mains as po­tent an artist to­day as that young dreamer who moved from Texas to Ten­nessee all those years ago. African wind in­stru­ments. In fresh and com­pelling open­ing cuts Chech el Khater and Mam­chout, Yahyaoui’s force­ful vo­cals and loutar (an oud-like in­stru­ment) vie with Ber­ber flute (gasba) and bendir (frame drum). In later tracks Dek Biya and Rod­dih, the singer com­petes for supremacy with a higher pitched bag­pipe-like in­stru­ment (zokra) and pound­ing bass drum. A stomp­ing dance song ( Waz­zaa) fol­lows sev­eral less fre­netic num­bers. In a folk-ori­ented sign-off piece ( Sidi el Kadhi), Yahyaoui’s voice is ac­com­pa­nied solely by gasba. Targ is an al­bum in which tribal tra­di­tion and mu­si­cal moder­nity are finely bal­anced.

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