Of the four records Rodney Crowell cut under his name before 1988's Diamonds & Dirt, three of them are still regarded as classics of the progressive country genre. The Houston native was well established as a songwriter (Emmylou Harris cut a slew of Crowell songs on her first five records), producer, and performer. Along with then-wife Rosanne Cash, he brought elements of new wave and early rock & roll into the genre, giving it a much needed kick in the rear. But as good as those albums were, Diamonds & Dirt put him on the map for good. In the 21st century, Crowell makes his living primarily as a hit songwriter, though he still records independently, cutting one critically acclaimed album after another. Co-produced by Crowell and Tony Brown, Diamonds & Dirt yielded five chart-topping singles, including "It's Such a Small World," a duet with Cash (who provided backing vocals throughout the set); a burning rockabilly version of pal Guy Clark's "She's Crazy for Leavin'"; the switchblade swagger of "Crazy Baby" (which sounds like Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe backing Jerry Lee Lewis); and the stellar ballad "After All This Time." That said, there is something else afoot here, too. A listen to "I Know You're Married" reveals that Crowell was a real fan of the early Beatles, and, on "I Didn't Know That I Could Lose You," of Roy Orbison. The only other cover on the set is a stellar swaggering honky tonk cum pub rock version of Harlan Howard's "Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)," which could have been recorded by England's Brinsley Schwarz. The remastered Legacy version of the album also includes three previously unreleased demos from the Diamonds & Dirt sessions and a wonderfully intimate set of liner notes. For contemporary country fans, this disc is such an important part of the development of modern music that it has virtually influenced everything that's come after it, making it impossible to ignore.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek