Maybe it was just a matter of momentum. It took Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell close to four decades to get around to making a duets album after the two first started working together in the mid-’70s, when he became a guitarist and frequent songwriter with her Hot Band. But just two years after releasing 2013’s Old Yellow Moon, Harris and Crowell have the ball rolling again with The Traveling Kind, another album built around their easy but heartfelt creative interplay as both vocalists and songwriters. Harris and Crowell co-wrote six of The Traveling Kind‘s 11 songs, and tunes like “You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try” and the title track reflect Harris‘ sweet, firm, very human tone as well as Crowell‘s outwardly cocky but inwardly perceptive voice, and the sweet and sour push and pull complements them both. Harris has been singing Crowell‘s songs for years, but their collaborative efforts have a special sort of gravity when they bring their voices together, as her heavenly tone merges with his earthier instrument. Harris and Crowell also throw a few covers into the mix, and their interpretations of Lucinda Williams‘ “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad” and Amy Allison‘s “Her Hair Was Red” are sung with the enthusiasm and care of fans who love and respect the material they’re bringing to life. And though several of the cuts reflect the moodier, more atmospheric sound Harris first embraced with Wrecking Ball (the loose, ghostly sound of “The Weight of the World” is one of the album’s most satisfying moments), they still find room for some rough and sweet honky tonk workouts, and “If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now” would be a C&W hit in an earlier, better era. Old Yellow Moon didn’t sound like the event some people were expecting it to be, and the same can be said of The Traveling Kind, but that’s mainly because, good as it is, The Traveling Kind never sounds fussed over. Instead, this is the work of two close friends and trusted collaborators who readily fall into a groove when they work together. They don’t appear to be aiming for a masterpiece; instead, they wanted to write some good songs and let them shine in the studio, and on that level, The Traveling Kind is a rousing success and a deeply satisfying work.
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- REPORTDick Slack
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Favorite Americana Artists of 2016
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