Rodney Crowell

Texas

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Rodney Crowell hails from Houston, so in a sense he's been writing about Texas since his first record way back in 1978. Nevertheless, 2019's Texas is his first album designed as an explicit tribute to the Lone Star State, an idea that formed when he started to pair some new originals with old tunes about his home state. To accentuate the music's deep roots, he brought on a cast of Texans to spotlight different aspects of the state's culture and attitude. Willie Nelson is here, naturally, singing on the waltz "Deep in the Heart of Uncertain Texas" with Ronnie Dunn and Lee Ann Womack, but so is Billy Gibbons, growling and grinding through the down-n-dirty blues of "56 Fury." Lyle Lovett shows up to sing on the slyly playful "What You Gonna Do Now" and Steve Earle offers a bit of barbed political commentary on "Brown & Root, Brown & Root" -- songs that speak to the wily, witty side of Texas, but the presence of Randy Rogers on "Flatland Hillbillies" helps bring the album into the red dirt present. "The Border," a stark ballad with spooky Tejano undertones, also speaks to the social politics of the late 2010s, and while it provides a weighty emotional anchor for the record, most of Texas is considerably lighter on its feet. The songs are filled with good humor and wry details, the music played with exuberance and casual virtuosity, a combination that amounts to an outright celebration of the many things that makes Texas great.

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