BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
A remarkably rapid follow-up to Old Yellow Moon, his award-winning, much lauded collaboration with Emmylou Harris, Tarpaper Sky finds Crowell yet again emphasizing the superior songwriting skills that have been his stock in trade since the very beginning. After all, Crowell’s always been best when he’s mining homespun emotion, and here he injects that bare-bone sentiment into both ballads and rockabilly-style rave-ups with results that are awe-inspiring to say the least.
Looking back over Crowell’s career, it’s hardly surprising that a man whose material has been covered by the likes of Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Keith Urban, Bob Seger and Etta James should be so adept. In this case, the best songs of the set are mostly mid-tempo. The earnest opener, “The Long Journey Home,” and the catchy Cajun ramble, “Fever on the Bayou” strike an immediate chord, while lines like “You tore through my life like a tornado looking for a trailer park” (from the Jerry Lee Lewis imagined rocker “Frankie Please”) find Crowell especially expressive… and effective. Likewise, Willie Nelson might have a hit if he tapped into the sweet strum and heartfelt appeal of “I Wouldn’t Be Me Without You.” However, even if Willie declines, it wouldn’t deter Crowell. Why should it. With Tarpaper Sky, he can clearly claim one of the finest albums of a sterling 40-year career.
DOWNLOAD: “I Wouldn’t Be Me Without You,” “The Long Journey Home,” “Frankie Please”