Three stars (out of four)
Reviewed by Samuel Gaytan
A Grammy winner and member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Rodney Crowell doesn’t have anything left to prove. Since he’s subsidized his past three albums, he doesn’t have to please anyone but himself, either.
But fans of masterful songwriting won’t be disappointed by “The Outsider.”
The 11 songs on the album mix instruments ranging from the fiddle to a string quartet to steel guitar for an alt-country feel. His songs take on greed, geopolitical and social injustice and the fleeting nature of life. The drunken character in “Don’t Get Me Started” rambles on about everything from the politics of petroleum to genocide in East Timor.
Crowell is smart enough to know that he doesn’t have a voice that’ll roar, so he lets his lyrics do it for him and keeps the music tailored to what he can achieve vocally. His duet with Emmylou Harris on Bob Dylan’s “Shelter from the Storm” is laced with steel guitar and organ, making for an interesting addition to Dylan covers. If you’re a fan of great lyrics and honest songwriting, take in “The Outsider.”
Recommended if you like: Johnny Cash, Steve Earle and Bob Dylan.