Album Review: Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell — Old Yellow Moon
Old Yellow Moon is the first official collaboration between country music stalwarts Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, but the pair have been making music together for forty years. Crowell joined Harris’ Hot Band in the mid 1970s and played on several of her albums before going solo in the 1980s. In addition to playing on his albums Diamonds & Dirt, Ain’t Living Long Like This, and last year’s Kin, Harris has covered his songs throughout her career, starting with “Bluebird Wine” off 1975’s Pieces of the Sky. In 2013, they’ve both aged out of the country mainstream, but have gracefully made the transition to the Americana market.
The new album, despite its inevitability, doesn’t sound much like old times, though. Rather than one supporting the other, Harris and Crowell are equals on Old Yellow Moon, trading off leads and singing together with easy, elegant chemistry. Their performances are so lived in and laidback that every song sounds like a first take; in fact, the title track was recorded around producer Brian Ahern’s kitchen table. “Black Caffeine” is jittery and nervous—the most caffeinated and conspiratorial Harris has sounded in a while—and “Bluebird Wine” might be more intoxicating, with Crowell reclaiming the old Harris chestnut.
If there’s a downside to this camaraderie, it’s that their obvious joy in collaboration nearly undercuts the rustic melancholy of “Open Season on My Heart” and “Spanish Dancer.” Fortunately, Ahern’s production keeps things simple and direct, allowing for a lot of empty space in “Dreaming My Dreams” to accentuate the tender regrets over lost loves and missed opportunities. Accompanied by a solitary piano on “Back When We Were Beautiful,” they instill a dignified desperation to the shared reminiscences, worrying over all the years and wrinkles they’ve accrued since they first met nearly decades ago. “I hate it when they say, I’m aging gracefully,” they sing together. “I fight it every day.” Making beautiful music may be the best way to fend off the years.
Preview or purchase Old Yellow Moon
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