Old Friends And Fellow Musicians, Harris And Crowell Unite
Published: Wednesday, February 27, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 23:02
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell has been in the works for well over three decades. And though they performed together in the ’70s—when Crowell sang in Harris’s Hot Band—and recorded sporadically together in the years following, Old Yellow Moon is actually their first duet project together.
Consisting of 12 tracks, most of which are covers, the album doesn’t really offer much in terms of novelty, excepting the four songs written by Crowell. Nevertheless, the selection of songs featured, the originals and the reinterpretations included, exhibits an authentically charming synergy between Harris and Crowell. Their apparent intimacy enables them to bring both perspective and depth to Old Yellow Moon, making it truly special.
For example, “Hanging Up My Heart,” the album’s opening song, demonstrates their seamless musical understanding of each other quite well. Written by Hank DeVito, an old band mate of theirs, the song is warm and sentimental, and with its steel guitar licks and guileless, bright vocals, it’s an undeniably fun country tune.
Many of the songs, about half of them in fact, are similarly upbeat. “Invitation to the Blues” and “Bluebird Wine” are both quickly paced concerning their tempo. The former song, characterized by sliding, electric riffs, frolicking violins, and a bouncing bass, is a Roger Miller cover, but Harris and Crowell effortlessly make this honky-tonk tune into one of their own. A song about drinking, the latter track, “Bluebird Wine,” is a revisited original. Amidst romping guitar solos and jug band melodies, it not only showcases Crowell’s lead vocals well, but it also serves as a stage for Harris to prove her skillful harmonies.
“Chase the Feeling” and “Black Caffeine” are, likewise, fast paced, but, in contrast, they have a slightly darker and more blatant blues vibe to them. A rendition of the Kris Kristofferson original, “Chase the Feeling” is one of the most rocking tracks on Old Yellow Moon—it finds Harris and Crowell belting out rebellious lines such as “Getting loaded again” and “Chase the feelin’ till you die.” “Black Caffeine” is comparable, but it’s more basic and acoustic, with snarling sing-talk blues vocals.
The rest of Old Yellow Moon is comprised of mellow ballads, and though many of them are sincere and moving, musically, they’re incredibly similar. Highlights include the lulling Patti Scialfa cover “Spanish Dancer” and the touching, acoustic Waylon cover “Dreaming My Dreams.” However, it’s the song “Back When We Were Beautiful” that shines most brilliantly amidst the surplus of similarly sweet slow tracks. Originally performed by Matraca Berg, the song stands out with its raw piano progression and reverberating Spanish-esque strings. “Back When We Were Beautful” is gracefully sad—it’s a stunningly bleak meditation on age and death, and Harris’s assertive voice, flitting into wispy breaths, complements Crowell’s tender and pleading tones flawlessly, resulting in what may be the best track on the album.
Delicate piano chords, guitar strums, and accordion refrains serve as a rich backdrop for Old Yellow Moon’s title and closing track. It, too, is lovely, and with its lyrics about retaining hope in the face of the inevitable passage of time, it’s a perfectly fitting place to end the record.
Though it certainly isn’t an album of innovation or diversity, Old Yellow Moon doesn’t seem to be too concerned with either. Rather, Harris and Crowell’s release maintains an entirely different focus: a sincere and poignant reflection on their past, on their relationship, and on music itself, Old Yellow Moon, holistically, is a timeless, sepia-toned collection of nostalgic country tunes shared between two close, old friends.