There was a big to-do happing in Cleveland Saturday night, but I surprised my usual suspects with passing on the Rock Hall inductions to catch Rodney Crowell at Music Box Supper Club. The last time I saw Crowell was the Sex and Gasoline tour, so having the opportunity to see the iconic singer/songwriter whose solo career spans 40 years was the choice tonight. Boy, did I make the right call.
Like some of his Texas troubadour friends, there is no set list when Rodney Crowell takes the stage. He starts a musical thread and builds on it as he goes, so those accompanying him need to be on the ready. Backed by Jedd Hughes on lead acoustic guitar and Eamon Mcloughlin on fiddle and mandolin, Crowell surrounded himself with some talented players, starting the night with “Glasgow Girl” and flowing into “Earthbound” and “Stuff That Works” that had the crowd silently in awe.
Crowell acknowledged the crowd between songs with a smile and little banter as he continued to maneuver the show with selections “Still Learning How To Fly,” “God I’m Missing You,” “Anything But Tame,” “Frankie Please,” and the crowd favorite “’Till I Gain Control Again.” He talked about his early days with The Notorious Cherry Bombs trying to be funny with a take on country music called “It’s Hard to Kiss the Lips at Night That Chew Your Ass Out All Day Long.”
Crowell was forced to stop performing after the release of last year’s Close Ties in July as he battled dysautonomia; a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. After working hard to regain his health, he finally was cleared to return to the road in February to pick up where he left off. From the acclaimed release Crowell played “East Houston Blues,” “Reckless,” “I Don’t Care Anymore,” “Nashville 1972,” and a beautiful fiddle solo by McLoughlin on the heartbreaking “Forgive Me Annabelle.” Crowell was spending two days a week visiting Guy Clark and at times there was a three-way conversation going on with Rodney, Guy, and Clark’s deceased wife Susanna. From that came “It Ain’t Over Yet,” the brilliant single from the LP featuring Rosanne Cash and John Paul White. The track was gorgeously recreated as McLoughlin sang White’s part while Crowell sang his and Rosanne’s verses.
The river then shifted to The Houston Kid album as Crowell felt blessed he was able to play “The Rock of My Soul” to his mother before she passed away. Two bookend songs came next as “I Wish it Would Rain” and “Wandering Boy” talks about twin brothers with one having HIV. The 20th and final song of the set was “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight.” As the boys soaked up the applause, they picked up their instruments to play four bonus songs, as Crowell says, “on top of the ones you already paid for.” The 67-years-young Crowell laughed about getting phone calls from his friends dating much younger women with the song “Famous Last Words of a Fool in Love,” and let Hughes and McLoughlin put on an acoustic jam that was totally electric on “Dancin’ Circles Round the Sun.” You could hear a pin drop during “Many a Long and Lonesome Highway” but “Pancho and Lefty” fell a little short, with the crowd forced into trying to sing the chorus. At that point, it really didn’t matter after being treated to such a wonderful evening.
Jedd Hughes shined opening the evening with a selection of original songs that he hopes to record for a fall album release. He has visited the Music Box before touring with Sarah Jarosz and countless other artists when not performing his own work. Keep an eye out for him down the road.