12 Classic Country Albums Turning 30 This Year – Rolling Stone

From Ain’t Living Long Like This, his masterpiece proto-Americana debut from 1978, and on to The Houston Kid, his masterpiece state-of-the-art Americana comeback from 2001, Rodney Crowell’s been most closely associated with the progressive- or alt-sides of the country divide. Ironic, then, that his most enduring contributions have all landed smack in the commercial radio mainstream. Either as producer, picker or songwriter, Crowell had a hand in all the best, and best-selling, recordings by both his former boss Emmylou Harris and his former wife Rosanne Cash, and his masterpiece among masterpieces, Diamonds & Dirt, launched five country chart-toppers. At once deep and direct, crafty and charismatic, judgy and generous, challenging and accessible, up to date yet up on the past — Crowell’s album collapses the expected country binaries. It bounces between indelible ballads, like “After All This Time,” tough shuffles, such as “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried” and Harlan Howard’s “Above and Beyond,” and crazed boot-scooters like “She’s Crazy for Leaving,” where he’s freed from a wrecked pickup via jaws of life. “Sometimes it’s diamonds and sometimes its dirt,” Crowell muses at the close about love, or maybe art. “Sometimes it’s magic and sometimes it’s work.” And, sometimes, it’s everything at once.

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