On July 13th, nearly 40 years after his debut LP was released, Rodney Crowell will issue his 19th album. Acoustic Classics vividly re-imagines some of Crowell's best-known songs and personal favorites with stripped-down – and in a few cases, markedly different – arrangements. One such tune is "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight," which Crowell wrote with fellow
The song's clipped rhymes were inspired by conversations the songwriters had while working with singer-actress Mary Kay Place (of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman fame), who was working on a country album, also produced by Ain't Living Long Like This producer Brian Ahern and recorded on his now-legendary Enactron truck mobile studio.
Although Crowell's debut album failed to chart, and "Leaving Louisiana" wasn't was one of its singles, one line from the song – "the highway goes on forever" – has certainly come to exemplify Crowell's enduring legacy as an in-demand writer. Emmylou Harris had already picked up the song for her Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town earlier that year, and in 1979, the Oak Ridge Boys took their version of it to Number One. Two years later, the vocal quartet had another chart-topper cribbed from Crowell's debut with "Elvira," a Dallas Frazier tune and one of three covers on Crowell's otherwise self-penned debut.
Since his debut, of course, Crowell has had dozens of his songs recorded by other artists, including rocker Bob Seger who took his "Shame on the Moon" to Number Two on the pop chart. Crowell revisits it on the new collection in a fascinatingly different version with additional lyrics. The singer-songwriter finally tasted mainstream country stardom himself with a record-breaking five Number One hits from a single album, the masterful Diamonds and Dirt, released in 1988. Since that time, he has released an extraordinarily inspired body of work including 2001's The Houston Kid, The Outsider in 2005, and a pair of duet LPs with Emmylou Harris. What Acoustic Classics represents, other than a stunning re-examination of Crowell's catalog, is something of a much-needed breather for an artist who has issued six albums in the last 10 years.
In late October 2016, Crowell was onstage in Thompson's Station,
"What it was," Crowell tells Rolling Stone Country, "was dysautonomia. With me, it's a thing where the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system are at cross purposes with each other and all kinds of stuff goes wrong. But I've learned to live with it. I work with a functional neurologist to really head off the things that sideline me."
Sidelined for five months, Crowell toured with guitarist Tommy Emmanuel but says now it was perhaps too soon after the diagnosis. Still, with the future in mind, he contemplated his next creative move while recuperating and coming to terms with the limitations of his condition.
"I'm able to work," he says. "So the first thing I did with the suggestion from my manager was the easy way to get back into this was to record an acoustic version of some of my better-known songs. The interesting thing to me about it is if I were to do that again, a week from now, it would be an entirely different record."
Acoustic Classics will be released on Crowell's own RC1 label on July 13th and is now available for pre-order.