“I’ve tried hard to leave here but never did could,” Rodney Crowell sings in “Deep in the Heart of Uncertain Texas,” a shuffling, picturesque highlight from his latest LP Texas, a musical tribute to the Houston-born singer-songwriter’s roots. Willie Nelson, Ronnie Dunn, and Lee Ann Womack, a trio of fellow Lone Star State luminaries, join Crowell on the song’s chorus, a highlight of the new album produced by Crowell with Ray Kennedy.
“It’s interesting to me — and I consider this a success — that so many high-profile performers contribute to the end result without derailing the narrative,” says Crowell, whose slate of guest artists on the record includes Ringo Starr, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, Vince Gill, Randy Rogers, Lyle Lovett, and Steve Earle. Propelled by Crowell’s dazzling gift for language, whether quirky, poignant or both at once, the songs of Texas are planted in deep, rich roots with the blues, rock & roll, dancehall honky-tonk, and cowboy balladry sprouting and thriving side-by-side. Throughout the LP, the captivating tunesmith unlocks searing images and a wide array of the musical styles represented in the vast landscape of his birthplace.
“Of course, we did the work of recording Texas and I did the work of writing the songs, but from the start there was a kind of mystical evidence that if I’d just stay out of the way,” he says, “this album would more or less make itself.”