Two become one in love and loss
Album of the Week
EMMYLOU HARRIS AND RODNEY CROWELL
The Travelling Kind
Nonesuch The art of the duet is much undersung, if you’ll pardon the phrase, though not in Americana music. Emmylou Harris should know. Her career kicked off more than 40 years ago singing duets with the great Gram Parsons, while Rodney Crowell came to prominence not much later singing harmony in her Hot Band. “I love the sound of two voices together,” Harris told Rolling
Stone, “whether it’s two women or two men or a man and a woman. It just creates a third voice.”
The idea of a third voice requires that the two singers share the sonic; that they “hear” the song the same way; that they like and trust each other. Harris and Crowell tick all those boxes.
“We vowed the first night we met in 1974 to make a record,” said Crowell. It took them a long time – Old Yellow Moon came out in 2013 and they received a Grammy and a heap of praise for their trouble.Two years later The Travelling Kind seeks to repeat the trick and, if anything, is more impressive.
This is a more relaxed, more confident album, perhaps because nine of the 11 tracks are their own. There is a sureness of touch, a clarity of direction and an array of memorable performances. It is rooted in the almost mythic sound of honky-tonks and heartaches, all steel guitar and heavenly harmony, where love and loss walk hand in hand. These are tropes of course but hard-luck ballads as strong as Memories Hanging Around and You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try evoke a simple beauty. In contrast, Bring It On Home To Memphis, the bluesy fizz of The Weight of the World and the wry If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now display more muscle, though as befits Joe Henry’s detailed but understated production, tastefully so.
And in the title track, these two performers have written a classic reflexive song for their journey together. They are, most certainly, The Travelling Kind.