Rodney Crowell at The Cellar
(San Francisco – April 3, 2001)

dose of good old-fashioned storytelling and Southern hospitality was just what the country doctor ordered for this city by the bay when songwriter/artist/producer Rodney Crowell graced the little stage of THE CELLAR. Having just moved back here myself from Nashville, where Rodney resided for many years (before moving recently to LA) and everybody knew his somewhat legendary name, I was pleasantly surprised to see a full house of very enthusiastic, fervent San Francisco Rodney fans who were more than willing to cough up the $20/25 ticket price.

Songwriters of his caliber and status can be seen playing in the round on any given night at several of the small clubs in Nashville, (like the Bluebird Cafe) but it is not often audiences outside that music community get an intimate taste of the type of entertainment Rodney Crowell delivered to promote his new self-produced slice-of-his-own-life growing up, The HOUSTON KID. Adding to the down-home feel of the night was his opening act, THE KOUNTRY KAYS (their real name ends in a word they and we don’t like to use too often), lead by Rodney’s old childhood band mate and by his own admission, sweetheart, (???) the, uh, uniquely authentic and animated J. Byrd Hosch. Why is it that real country music like this seems to only come from and be played by people OUTSIDE of Nashville these days and what comes OUT of it sounds like 70's and 80's pop??? (Don't get me started...)

Accompanied by two other guitar players, who sang and doubled on harmonica and mandolin, the Grammy award winning artist, who's penned hit songs for everyone from Roseanne Cash (his ex-wife), Emmy Lou Harris (his former boss), Tim McGraw (Faith Hill's hubby) to rock legends like Roger Daltrey (The Who) and Foghat (!!), interwove colorful tales about the people he grew up with, from "THE HOUSTON KID", with several of his well-known hits, like "Till I Gain Control Again". Much to his credit, Rodney has turned his back on Music Row, the Nashville machine that determines which saccharine song will be the next country hit, and has chosen to cover such controversial subjects as his own domestically violent household and the poverty-driven crime, drug addiction, and HIV/AIDS afflictions of his neighbors, juxtaposed with forgiveness and redemption.

When he told a story about how his parents, now both deceased, came to him in a dream and inspired him to write the beautiful "I Know Love Is All I Need", a few tears escaped from these eyes because my own dad passed away just a couple weeks ago. Isn't that what music is supposed to do - capture and hold us, wherever we are??? I know that's why I write it. My favorite moment came during one of the encores, when Rodney encouraged the audience to call out tunes, and convinced him to do an old song, "I Don't Fall In Love So Easily". When he forgot some of the lyrics, a girl who looked much too young to be an old fan, sung out the line from the audience. He brought her up on stage and had her finish the song with him, and they sounded great together! The look on her face was worth the price of admission. With appreciation, humility, humor and grace, The Houston Kid told us a whole bunch of bedtime stories, tucked us in, and turned out the light.

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