Old Yellow Moon finds Emmylou Harris duetting with her old buddy Rodney Crowell, under the supervision of former husband Brian Ahern. The results fall just short of perfection.
First a bit of history, since history plays a prominent role in the making of this record. Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell first worked together in the mid-70s. Rodney was a member of Emmylou’s Hot Band before staking out on his own. Brian Ahern was the producer on Emmylou’s 1975 debut, Elite Hotel and Crowell, along with Hank DeVito, Bill Payne, John Ware, Glen D. Hardin, James Burton, Emory Gordy and Mickey Raphael all either wrote or played on both Elite Hotel and Old Yellow Moon, so there’s a lot of history there.
Things begin with a sublime rendition of Hank DeVito’s Hanging Up My Heart. It’s an upbeat country tune with an undertone of heartbreak. Tommy (Waco) Spurlock’s steel guitar playing is outstanding and with James Burton’s guitar, Vince Gill’s harmony vocals and Rodney and Emmylou’s voices intertwined, this is the aural version of heaven.
One thing Emmylou and Rodney know about is songs…and they’ve chosen some beauts to record here including Roger Miller’s Invitation To The Blues, led by Larry Franklin’s fiddle and Kris Kristofferson’s Chase The Feeling, a bluesy track highlighted by Reece Wynan’s honky tonk piano.
Surprisingly, Patti Scialfa, wife of Bruce Springsteen, gets a song covered and it too is a winner. Spanish Dancer starts out with just Emmylou and an acoustic guitar and accordion. Vince Gill plays a beautiful guitar solo, Rodney throws in some harmonies and a mandolin, played by Stuart Duncan is the icing on the cake. The result is an achingly gorgeous track.
It’s not all tears in the beers. Bluebird Wine, a rockin’ little Crowell composition bounces along nicely. It turns out Emmylou first recorded the song on her 1976 album Pieces Of The Sky, but until now, Rodney has never sung it. It was worth waiting for.
The album is not quite perfect. Matraca Berg’s Back When We Were Beautiful is given an overly-saccharine treatment. Granted the song is about aging and mortality, but this version comes dangerously close to Wind Beneath My Wings territory.
But that is a brief lapse of judgement. The rest of Old Yellow Moon is about as satisfying as you could want. Emmylou and Rodney’s voices sound superb together and the songs and musicians they’ve chosen to work with couldn’t be better. Here’s hoping a tour is in the works. I’d love to hear these songs live.
Click here to listen to Spanish Dancer from Old Yellow Moon: