If Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell’s first-ever duet album, felt like old friends catching up and remembering old times, The Traveling Kind seems like one for the road. Entrenched in the things they do well—roadhouse revelry, a funky kind of country honk, heart-aching ballads—the Joe Henry-produced project eschews the formalness of old friends finding their way for a playful jumble that bubbles (“Bring It On Home To Memphis”), sweetheart waltzes (“Just Pleasing You”) and tracks that get down in the pocket (“If You Lived Here, You’d Be Home Now”). Crowell has always had a hip-tilt cool to his Texas urgency, while Harris’ silvery voice is pristine, glistening, a perfect conduit for raw emotion.
It seems only fitting that exactly forty years after their fortuitous pairing began, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris are back at it with their lovingly spare duets collection, The Traveling Kind. Featuring a collage of photographs and mementos from the intervening years, the album’s cover carries with it the easy familiarity inherent in the pair’s artistic output. Coming only two years after their last album together, it’s a welcome reminder of just how well these two work together.
Rodney Crowell & Emmylou HarrisThe Traveling Kind(Nonesuch)Rating. 4 out of 5 stars Who knows why some voices sound great together? For some reason, Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris have always possessed that indefinable vocal chemistry, whether they’re tackling chippy up-tempo numbers or bereft ballads. Although they’d collaborated often in the past, 2013’s sublime Old Yellow Moon made us wonder why these two old buddies hadn’t thought to record an entire album together before.
Maybe it was just a matter of momentum. It took Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell close to four decades to get around to making a duets album after the two first started working together in the mid-'70s, when he became a guitarist and frequent songwriter with her Hot Band. But just two years after releasing 2013's Old Yellow Moon, Harris and Crowell have the ball rolling again with The Traveling Kind, another album built around their easy but heartfelt creative interplay as both vocalists and songwriters.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell met in 1974, but it took them until 2013's Grammy-winning set Old Yellow Moon to make a record together. The original duets on their follow-up range from heartbreak (Crowell's superb "No Memories Hanging 'Round") to social consciousness (the bluesy "The Weight of the World"). Harris' all-time great harmonies elevate Crowell's poetic lyrics on the mandolin-tinged title cut; the loose rocker "Bring It on Home to Memphis" and their rendition of Lucinda Williams' "I Just Wanted to See You So Bad" are highlights.
Mixing and matching country legends doesn’t always work, as countless reverentially suspect abominations attest, but given the glorious vocal skills of Emmylou and Rodney, one is at least assured of sumptuous old-school Americana in spades. The Little Feat-flavoured Bring It On Home To Memphis ruffles rocky feathers with such gusto that it’s hard to countenance that these two legends won’t see 60 again. Far more reflective is You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try, a virtual Willie Nelson pastiche that chugs by so agreeably it barely casts a shadow.
Emmylou Harris is famed for her ’70s duets with the legendary Gram Parsons, which proved that the pair had a youthful, kinetic chemistry. She shares a more professional, well-crafted sound with Rodney Crowell, but it’s still a thing of beauty. Their first duo album, “Old Yellow Moon,” won a Grammy, and this follow-up is even better.
Two of country music's enduring icons won a Grammy for 2013's Old Yellow Moon, their first collaboration. On follow-up The Traveling Kind, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell sound more at ease with each other, or perhaps it's the songs they attempt this time around, since they were written together or with top-tier contemporaries Will Jennings, Mary Karr, Larry Klein, and Cory Chisel. The pair's voices mesh smoother now, especially on fervent duet "You Can't Say We Didn't Try.
Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell team up again on "The Traveling Kind." The 2013 album co-authored by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell, "Old Yellow Moon," was surprising only in that it took so long to happen. It marked the first full-length collaboration between two artists who have been friends and off-and-on musical partners since the '70s, when Crowell played guitar in Harris' renowned Hot Band. The album went on to win a Grammy Award, and was so well-received that a follow-up seemed inevitable.