Sex and Gasoline is Rodney Crowell's first record in three years, where he goes further inside but pulls out accessible and jagged observations on the conflicting poles in what it means to be a conscious human being who struggles with unconscious urges. In these songs he also investigates what it means to be a man who tries -- and fails a lot -- to empathize with and respect women in a culture that, whether it admits it or not, hates them. Produced by Joe Henry and performed by his own nearly ubiquitous sound-painting crew of drummer Jay Belleros, bassist David Pilch, keyboardist Patrick Warren, pedal steel, mandolin, and dobro master Greg Leisz, and guitar boss Doyle Bramhall III, this is Crowell at his most direct and dense: he channels many other songwriters, but as always he remains completely his own man.
An uneven but generally pleasant sketchbookMaybe it’s the Dylanesque qualities of his voice that overset the bar, but Rodney Crowell’s current attempts to be topical are just too on-the-nose. In songs like “The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design,” Crowell preaches to the presumably converted with more candor than craft. Crowell’s better moments are more personal.
Often praised as the Lone Star State's Bob Dylan, Rodney Crowell's genuine and personal narratives achieve blunt impact courtesy of producer Joe Henry's live studio approach on Crowell's 14th proper release. The opening trifecta of Townes Van Zandt-channeling "Moving Work of Art," the biting title track, and searing indictment in "The Rise and Fall of Intelligent Design" sets the disc's theme of unraveling female cultural constraints and represents the Houston Kid at his best. "I Want You #35" unloads bluesy moaning atop the thump of upright bass, and "I've Done Everything I Can" aches with a father's helplessness.