Rodney Crowell Sings John D. Loudermilk: See 'Tobacco Road' - Rolling Stone
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See Rodney Crowell’s Fiery ‘Tobacco Road’ From John D. Loudermilk Tribute

Live album featuring Crowell, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash and more is now available, with concert special airing this fall on PBS

As classic American songs go, songwriter John D. Loudermilk’s gritty “Tobacco Road” is among the most revered and widely recorded, with the hard-charging 1964 hit version by a band of Brits called the Nashville Teens setting the pace. Among the dozens of others who have since recorded it are Jefferson Airplane, Edgar Winter, Lou Rawls and, in 2016, Shawn Colvin and Steve Earle. 

But for Rodney Crowell, the occasion to cover “Tobacco Road” coincided with a special event that paid homage to the writer Crowell hailed as “the most interesting man in the world.” Joined by longtime Marty Stuart drummer Harry Stinson, Crowell acknowledged the guest of honor, songwriter John D. Loudermilk, who with his wife Susan looked on as the singer tore into a version of the song, which has found favor over the past six decades with blues, rock, garage, punk, country and pop musicians.

Just months before he passed away at age 82, Loudermilk witnessed history being made as an all-star cast of performers came together to pay tribute to the man who also penned such genre-defying classics as “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” “Waterloo,” “Indian Reservation,” “Abilene” and many others. The event was recorded live at the FranklinTheatre, south of Nashville in March 2016, for the just-released LP A Tribute to John D. Loudermilk.

The concert also featured performances by more than two dozen artists including Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Ricky Skaggs, bluegrass band Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, the Whites, Jimmy Hall, Deborah Allen, Bobby Braddock, Becky Hobbs, Mike Loudermilk and guitarists Tommy Emmanuel and John Jorgenson, the latter of whom co-produced the album (with concert organizer Dixie Gamble) and acted as musical director for the evening. The event was hosted by music historian Peter Cooper, who also penned the LP’s liner notes, saying of Loudermilk, “He wasn’t just a seeker of truth and beauty, he was a finder. He found it, he learned it, he kept it, and then he shared it with us seekers.”

Loudermilk died just six months after the concert took place, but his legacy continues to inspire fellow artists and friends. In addition to the album, a film of the event will be released this fall as a PBS special. Artist royalty proceeds from the sale of A Tribute to John D. Loudermilk will be donated to MusiCares, the organization established by the RecordingAcademy to safeguard the health and well-being of all music people. 

In This Article: Rodney Crowell


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