Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell has been making records since 1978. His fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger to Keith Urban, is now legendary in the music world.
On Saturday, May 26 this icon of Nashville arrives in Maine to perform at the Opera House in Boothbay Harbor, after postponing his planned September 2017 concert for health reasons. That concert was sold out at the time it was canceled and it is expected that tickets for the upcoming concert will sell quickly.
His newest album, “Close Ties,” demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and profound musical reach. “Close Ties” is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back into the alternative country scene of the early ‘70s. But is defies easy classification. Does art need categories?
“Well,” Crowell said, “when I was a quote-unquote country star for my fifteen minutes of major fame, I hated the label. I bristled at it and got myself in trouble. I would go around to radio stations and that early morning drive-time, chirpy optimism, and I would come across as grumpy. They knew my mind wasn’t in the right place. I was an interloper in that world. I didn’t fit it. It soon spit me out. In hindsight, it should have: I was no asset to their goal, which was to satisfy their advertisers.”
On the other hand, the rise of Americana music struck a nerve with him. “I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it—Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell—share a common thread, and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them. “The interesting thing about that garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to ‘Honky Tonkin’’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Cream. That was the beauty of it, that all of that existed side by side.” Crowell finds himself going back to that music, but also going even earlier. “Recently, I think—I hope—that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music. Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players, connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get back there.”
All seats are general admission. Advance discounted tickets: $35 are available directly from the Opera House box office at 86 Townsend Avenue or by calling 633-5159. Regular tickets: $40 are available online at www.boothbayoperahouse.com and at the door, IF the concert is not sold out.
This performance is generously sponsored by the Muir Family.
Doors for seating open at 7 p.m. The upstairs bar will open at 6:30 p.m. for ticket holders.