Emmylou Harris/Rodney Crowell:
“OLD YELLOW MOON” (2013)Reviewed by Anthony Servante
Emmylou and Rodney on their 2013 tour of Old Yellow Moon
I grew up on Country Music. Real Country. Hank Williams. Roy Clark. Merle Haggard. Buck Owens. Conrad Twitty. Et al. To hear an LP like OLD YELLOW MOON today when Country and Indie are blurred into each other is not a nostalgic throwback, but a look forward to the potential that traditional Country still carries in an age when “oldie” means Hank Williams Jr. and Garth Brooks. Don’t get me wrong. I like those artists too, but they don’t represent Country; they represent an evolution of the music form. It’s like calling Heavy Metal and Rock and Roll (Chuck Berry’s music) the same form. Sure, Metal grew from Rock, but it’s not ye olde Rhythm and Blues Rock of the Fifties, a music that has continued to grow in the hands of the artists like Dave Alvin, Brian Setzer, Sandy Denny and T-Bone Burnett. Emmylou Harris is Country from yesterday and today combined. And together with former Hot Band mate, Rodney, they make a case for the harmonies of old Country versus the electric Country of today.
“Hanging Up My Heart” by Hank Devito starts the CD with that traditional old sound one would expect of a fifties Country song. The twangy guitar-work and snappy drum beat blend with the uplifting harmonies of Harris and Crowell. Songs like “Spanish Dancer” rely on soft playful acoustic guitar-work to give that Country feel to the traditional sound of the music. “Open Season on My Heart” adds violin and piano to the acoustics to tell the sad tale of failed love—a common theme that Hank Williams made commonplace in the Western sound (think “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”).
But the song that brought this CD to my attention is Old Yellow Moon, a prairie ballet that one can imagine hearing at night with a wide sky full of stars and of course that moon. See the video below.
Old Yellow Moon
Not quite an “old school” LP, not completely, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell bring the old spirit to some nontraditional country songs that play seamlessly with the traditional arrangements of the harmonious songs. This is as close as we can get to a fifties Country classic LP without leaving 2013. High praise in these days of ambivalent Western music.