(This will probably mirror my husband's post tonight, but I had the idea first.)
When I was an adolescent, my dad gave me a cassette tape he'd found on the side of the road (no, really). It was Rodney Crowell's Diamonds and Dirt. His fifth studio album, but probably the one for which he is best known--it hit number 8 on the country charts; although the one after it hit 15, most of his albums are in the 30s or worse on the charts. It hit the top ten for the obvious reason. It's a fantastic album. There's not one bad song on it, and several great ones. All five singles from the album hit number 1 on the charts. They are still as good today as they were over 20 years ago.
The music machine did its thing, though, and he's been singing in semi-obscurity for a while now, it seems. He certainly faded off the radio, even around here which is a crying shame 'cause he's one of the only good things to come out of Houston. I think these days he's mostly known for having once been Johnny Cash's son-in-law, and for co-writing a Tim McGraw song back in the '90s. (His version is better. Which isn't saying a whole hell of a lot, because it's a mediocre song--much more on the level of "Loving All Night" than "After All This Time.") He also wrote one of Waylon's signature songs, "Ain't Livin' Long Like This", and did a bizarre country-pop version of it. (In fact, it was apparently the title track from his debut album the year before I was born.)
(I am addicted to parenthetical statements. I blame Stephen King.)
I rediscovered his music around the time Erik and I discovered each other. Full disclosure: as a child, I got him and Radney Foster confused constantly, probably because their first names are within one letter of each other, and I am horrible with names. Like Foster, he only got better out of the spotlight. His semi-autobiographical 2001 album The Houston Kid is the ne plus ultra of such albums, an absolutely brilliant showcase of his songwriting abilities. Erik's going to use "Telephone Road" in his blog post, so I'll run with this, "The Rock of My Soul":
There is a spoken introduction to this song, the sort of thing that usually irritates me but illuminates the story within the song wonderfully. I know the story is mostly true, too, which is beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.
There's this funny little conversion that goes on with those of us who had unhappy childhoods. If you are a basically optimistic person, as I am, you choose to minimize the bad parts in favor of the good ones. I sense a lot of the same here--and from other things I have read about him--and so the song resonates with me.
It's also, simply, a heartbreakingly sad song, something country music does better than just about any genre. (I love the blues, but it's often too formulaic for my tastes.) When I called up the video on YouTube to snag the embed code, I listened to the song for the fourth time in maybe 90 minutes, and I could listen to it again happily; it's just that good. (Hearing it on Texas Mix 105.3--thanks MattTexian--prompted this whole thing.)
One more song from that album. This is "I Walk the Line Revisited". A song about, as the refrain says "The first time I heard Johnny Cash sing 'I Walk the Line'." Crowell's lyrics are wrapped around Cash's, and the whole thing is flipping fantastic: