The Music Box's #9 album of 2005
First Appeared in The Music Box, August 2005, Volume 12, #8
Written by John Metzger
With the release of The Outsider, Rodney Crowell successfully has completed his transformation from a formidable hit-maker for Nashville’s contemporary country scene into a misfit songwriter whose bristling, rock ’n‘ roll-laden intensity rivals that of fellow Texans Joe Ely and Steve Earle. In fact, those unfamiliar with Crowell’s past might find it difficult to believe that the same guy who crafted the garage-infused jangle of Say You Love Me also penned chart-topping tunes for the likes of Crystal Gayle and The Oak Ridge Boys. Although Crowell eventually subdues the broiling angst that begins The Outsider, his edginess doesn’t dissipate until after he lays waste to hedonistic greed in The Obscenity Prayer (Give It to Me) and slathers the title track’s dichotomous views of the world in an ominous brew of swampy soul. Still, as he pulls back on the throttle and settles into the sort of folk-pop grooves that draw equally from the likes of Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, George Harrison, and Bob Dylan — so much so that Crowell sounds as if he might be auditioning for a spot in the Traveling Wilburys — his lyrics continue to strike their targets with devastating force. Most notable is the collection’s centerpiece Don’t Get Me Started, a crunchy, barroom diatribe that lambastes America’s corporate-driven culture. Yet, even Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm is shaded with new meaning. Brilliantly reincarnated as a startlingly poignant duet with Emmylou Harris, the song transcends its storyline, and instead of providing respite for the lovesick, it offers comfort for the downtrodden who are stuck within a world gone mad. Indeed, in crafting what essentially is a travelogue of his recent overseas jaunts, Crowell uses The Outsider as a means of coming to grips with what it’s like to be a stranger in a strange land. That he’s referring not to the foreign countries that he is touring but rather to the place that he calls home is a telling depiction of how unsettled life within the U.S.A. has become.
The Outsider is available from Barnes & Noble.
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
Copyright © 2005 The Music Box