CD Reviews for 08/19/05 – Rodney Crowell, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Pernice Bros by Dan Ferguson

Rodney Crowell
The Outsider
Columbia Nashville 94470

Here’s thinking many a singer/songwriter would give their eye teeth to be making music at the age of 55 as relevant and fresh sounding as that of Rodney Crowell. Over the course of his last three releases including the brand new recording The Outsider which gets the Compact Capsules treatment this week, Crowell’s music and songwriting has taken a significant leap forward. The resurgence began in 2001 with the release The Houston Kid recorded for the indie label Sugar Hill Records. An autobiographical affair with a real country flavor, Crowell wore his heart on his sleeve in song taking us from his days growing up in Houston to his adult days in his present home of Nashville. Aside from the maturity of the work, the album demonstrated a creativity and smartness that had not been seen since 1989’s Diamonds & Dirt. More than just a great record, it was a wake-up call to the industry that Rodney Crowell was as vital an artist in his 50s as he was when as a thirtysomething he was a regular fixture on the country charts. Whereas The Houston Kid didn’t have hits, it was incredibly well received and brought Crowell a newfound respect for his storytelling ways. It also landed him back with his old label, Columbia Records, which released the follow-up Fate’s Right Hand in 2003. In contrast to the autobiographical slant of The Houston Kid, the songs of Fate’s Right Hand portrayed Crowell as a wizened, fiftysomething coming to grips with everything from mortality to meditation and at the same time attaching some pretty catchy melodies to it all. Now along comes The Outsider which continues the transformation of Crowell into seasoned veteran of the popular music world. Politics, wit and intelligence, it and morel can be found in the 11 songs comprising The Outsider. Crowell comes out of the gates like gangbusters with the one-two punch of the blazing “Say You Love Me” and the even harder rockin’ “The Obscenity Prayer (Give It To Me)”, each packing a catchy chorus that sticks like glue. On “Don’t Get Me Started” he vents his own frustrations with the double talk so prevalent in today’s political and corporate worlds. The songs of The Outsider were for the most part composed during the election year, a time during which Crowell was touring overseas with a straightforward rock band or as he describes in the accompanying press release, “The basic Beatles line-up – bass, drums, two guitars.” While there is plenty of punch on The Outsider, there are some equally fine moments on which elegance prevails. There’s the ballad “Beautiful Despair” which begins with the hook line “Beautiful despair is hearing Dylan when you’re drunk at 3 AM” and taking it one step further, a wonderfully stripped-down cover of “Shelter From the Storm” featuring a duet between Crowell and Emmylou Harris. Simply put, Crowell’s roll continues with The Outsider.

Rodney Crowell performs at Johnny D’s in Somerville, MA on Thursday, August 25. Johnny D’s is located at 17 Holland Street in Davis Square in Somerville. Call (617) 776-2004 or check the club web site at

Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Come On Back
Rounder 3193

It’s been five years since the last release from Lone Star crooner Jimmie Dale Gilmore. That album was the critically acclaimed One Endless Night. While five years is a pretty significant gap, Gilmore had not been laying low by any means during that time as the solo career took a back seat to his role as a member of the band The Flatlanders which reemerged after a lengthy hiatus to release two albums during the time since One Endless Night. The newly released Come On Back ends the dry spell as far as solo recordings from Gilmore are concerned. For those looking for an album of new material from Gilmore, Come On Back is not the ticket. For those looking for an album of classic country songs as performed by one of the great interpretive voices in country and roots music, Come On Back hits a homer. The inspiration for the record can be traced back to Gilmore’s days growing up in Lubbock, Texas and in particular, the many great country songs introduced to him by his father. With his father Brian’s passing, Gilmore felt the time was right for a little pay back. Come On Back is his memorial to his dad who died in 2000 after being diagnosed the previous year with ALS. It features tried and true covers of classic country songs, each of which was first introduced to Gilmore by his dad, by such esteemed C&W legends as Johnny Cash (“Train of Love”), Ernest Tubb (“Walking the Floor Over You”), Hank Williams (“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive”), Hank Snow (“I’m Movin’ On”), Ray Price, Charlie Walker (“Pick Me Up On Your Way Down”), Marty Robbins (“Don’t Worry About Me” with the signature fuzztone guitar and all), Lefty Frizzell (“Saginaw, Michigan”), Jim Reeves (“Four Walls”), and the gospel number “Peace In the Valley”. Featuring some of Austin’s finest musicians on the supporting end, Come On Back is produced and arranged by Gilmore’s Flatlanders comrade Joe Ely who also sings and plays on the record. While Gilmore might not break any new ground on this album, he delivers this collection of top shelf country songs with both respect and feeling. No doubt he also knows dear old dad is up there nodding his head in approval. Classify Come On Back as a keeper. (Rounder Records, One Camp Street, Cambridge, MA 02140, or

The Pernice Brothers
Discover A Lovelier You
Ashmont ASHM009

Strip the lyrics away from the songs of Joe Pernice as found on the latest release from he and his band the Pernice Brothers called Discover A Lovelier You and what your left with is a collection of striking indie pop symphonies rich in nuance with a dreamy glow on which something new seems to greet the ears with each listen. (As a matter of fact, in an oddly uncharacteristic twist, the Pernice Brothers actually do offer up a sans-lyrics number on Discover A Lovelier You, that being the title track to the album which is as lovely an instrumental as they come.) But these wouldn’t be Pernice Brothers songs without Joe Pernice’s nimble way with the pen and his graceful, high tone voice. First off, the combination of Pernice’s songcraft saddled with melodies with pop hooks galore makes for a very summer sounding record (and with summer winding down, the recommendation here is to not hesitate in the least in seeking this album out!) Renowned for songs with a distinctly sad sack demeanor to them as demonstrated by earlier albums from he and the band, the songs of Discover A Lovelier You while sunny in sound characteristically walk on the boulevard of despair. There’s “Saddest Quo” which uses the overkill of TV headline news when tragedy strikes as its liftoff point and “Dumb It Down” for which the title says it all. They’re just two moments of what are 13 memorable ones on Discover a Lovelier You. In other word, pop brilliance packed into 40 minutes. (Ashmont Records, 10A Burt Street, Dorchester, MA 02124, or

The Pernice Brothers perform at The Century Lounge in Providence on Thursday, August 25. The Century Lounge is located at 150 Chestnut Street. Call (401) 751-2255.