Album: Rodney Crowell

Fate's Right Hand, DMZ/EPIC
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The Independent Culture

Rodney Crowell is the songwriter's songwriter, a craftsman whose peer renown only occasionally translates into wider success - most notably on his 1988 Columbia debut Diamonds and Dirt, which spawned five country chart-toppers and garnered an armful of Grammies. Fate's Right Hand finds him back with Columbia, though Crowell had to take out a bank loan to record the album before they got involved, which speaks volumes about the state of the industry even in the gilt-edged country market. And it's a great album, with the fiftysomething Crowell musing intelligently on time past and time passing.

Song after song finds a string of luckless, ageing losers weighing principles against penury, and usually concluding that keeping one's integrity intact is worth whatever it costs. Crowell's frame of reference is somewhat wider than your average Nashville hick's, with references here to Rilke, Heaney, Ringo, Jesus and the Dalai Lama, the latter's influence reflected in the Buddhist attitude of "Time to Go Inward". "My mind is like a chatterbox whose noise pollutes the pathways to my soul," reflects Crowell, but the rest of us can only hope it keeps chattering away with songs as good as these.