Rodney Crowell's auspicious 1978 debut, Ain't Living Long Like This, not only showcases his songwriting prowess, but also his ability to deliver a song, whether it's one of his own or the work of another writer. Crowell possesses a sort of Everly Brothers, Nashville soul in his strong, emotive tenor, that's equally effective on the country-blues of Dallas Frazier's "Elvira," as it is on the rocking title cut or a country-folk ballad such as the self-penned "Song for the Life." Along with producer Brian Ahern (Emmylou Harris), Crowell employs a who's who of country and rock'n'roll session players, including James Burton and Glen D. Hardin, both of whom played with Elvis Presley and Gram Parsons, as well as enlisting the aid of artists such as Dr. John, Ry Cooder, Nicolette Larson, Emmylou Harris, Ricky Skaggs and Willie Nelson. As a writer, Crowell, who chose to include three terrific covers over any of his backlog of excellent original material, has the knack for mixing a pop sensibility and rock'n'roll vitality, with the heart and reverence of a traditionalist. A song such as "California Earthquake (A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On)," sounds as if it could've been written decades before, while "Voila, An American Dream" hit the pop charts the following year for the Dirt Band. Ain't Living Long Like This became a mining-ground of material for others. Nearly every one of Crowell's tunes from the album was covered within the next few years, spawning at least a couple of major hits. Even "Elvira," which he had resurrected, became an early-'80s smash for the Oak Ridge Boys .
AllMusic Review by Brett Hartenbach