Fate's Right Hand

Rodney Crowell

Sony/Epic Records, 2003


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


Rodney Crowell has, in the last four years, turned himself from a country-music has-been to one of the freshest and most brutally honest voices in American roots music. Not quite country any more, his music exists in the twilight zone where Harry Chapin meets Johnny Cash; straightforward, earthy, and yet still penetrating and thought-provoking. He achieved this breakthrough on 2001's my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 The Houston Kid, a CD where he shed his Diamonds & Dirt image for an unblinking look at his poverty-stricken childhood. We've met the child; now, on 2003's Fate's Right Hand, the same calculating lens is focused on the man.

Would that we all could be so honest with ourselves. Fate's Right Hand is simply breathtaking. The musicianship is elegant, with great turns by Pat Buchanan and Crowell on guitar and Paul Leim on drums. Several guest stars, including luminaries like Bela Fleck, Jerry Douglas, and Gillian Welch give the CD additional punch and power. Woven through it all are the powerful, perceptive, and occasionally funny lyrics of Crowell's work, the centerpiece of a heck of a table.

Let's put it this way; how many people do you know who could get away with writing the line "Jesus and Buddha and Krishna and Minnie Pearl knew / Do unto others the things you want done unto you"? Better yet, how many people could sing it and plainly mean it as something serious, not as a hokey pop culture reference? Crowell is a genius, y'all.

There's not a bad song on the CD, but I have a particular fondness for "Still Learning How To Fly," a touching summary of a life in transit; the lyrical quirkiness and heartfelt celebration of memory in "Earthbound"; the chilling honesty of "The Man In Me" and "Ridin' Out The Storm"; and finally the wisdom of "This Too Shall Pass," closing Fate's Right Hand with a moment of grace.

We have too few songwriters who can quote Johnny Cash and Maria Rainer Rilke with equal grace, and make it all sound damn fine in the end. Don't miss Fate's Right Hand.

Rating: A

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2003 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Sony/Epic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.