The Grammy-winning singer-songwriter plays Grand Rapids’ St. Cecilia Music Center on Friday night, touring behind a highly praised new studio album. The Local Spins interview.
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Grammy winner and iconic Americana/country singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell describes his latest studio album, “Triage,” as an “intensely personal” collection that articulates his spirituality while incorporating a myriad of musical styles.
And he considers himself fortunate to have an audience – like the one who’ll welcome him to Grand Rapids’ St. Cecilia Music Center on Friday (Nov. 12) – that celebrates that new music as well as “some of those old songs” from his 49-year career.
“My taste in music is very broad. I listen to a lot of music and I listen to it passionately and gratefully because the work that other artists do informs what I do,” he says of embracing everything from ZZ Top to Peter Gabriel to Billy Eilish to Merle Haggard.
“I grew up in the South with sharecrop farm kids for parents. I was raised on pure country music. It’s there in my blood, but I also came of age in the ’60s when music was so diverse. Since then, I listen to jazz, I listen to classical, I listen to all kinds of music, world music.”
That rich cornucopia of styles weaves its way through socially conscious and penetrating tracks on “Triage,” which was released in July to rave reviews:
The Guardian called it “brave and soul-baring,” Americana Highways compared his writing to Townes van Zandt, Bob Dylan and Guy Clark, and No Depression concluded that “Crowell’s brilliance shines on ‘Triage’ in a way it seldom has before.”
“I’m grateful to the audience that I’ve managed to attract and cultivate,” he told Local Spins.
“They are very supportive of my particular way of doing things. If I can’t hold an audience with the work I’m doing now, then I should bow out. I don’t seem myself as a guy who relies on the oldies hits. I’ve got to stay current.”
‘A COMBINATION OF MUSICIANS THAT’S MORE ECLECTIC THAN EVER’
At 71, Crowell has covered a lot of ground since releasing his first album in the 1970s after moving to Nashville from Texas.
From garnering acclaim and hit singles with 1988’s “Diamonds & Dirt” to winning Grammy Awards for best country song (“After All This Time” in 1990) and best Americana album (with Emmylou Harris for “Old Yellow Moon” in 2014) and snagging numerous country music awards, Crowell has also mentored younger artists – something he’s passionate about.
He also remains passionate about performing, calling his touring group, “This Band I Love”: fiddler Eamon McLoughlin, keyboardist Catherine Marx, standup bassist Zachariah Hickman and percussionist Glen Caruba.
“I have a combination of musicians that’s more eclectic than ever and what we do brings me great joy. I have a great time with them,” he says.
“I’m really proud of putting this show on. I want people to come to see us play and understand that they are being introduced to some really accomplished musicians.”
Crowell and his band perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday in St. Cecilia Music Center’s Royce Auditorium, 24 Ransom Ave. NE in Grand Rapids, as part of the Acoustic Café Folk Series. Tickets are $50-$60, available online at scmc-online.org. Concertgoers must wear a mask and show proof of COVID vaccination or a negative COVID test for entry.
Crowell concedes that because “the kind of energy you have at 33 is not the kind of energy you have at 71,” he makes sure he gets enough sleep and pays “close attention to the ebb and flow” of his biological rhythms when on tour.
“I live a blessed existence,” he says.
“Money and fame is not part of the game for me anymore. It’s the work. It’s a lot more peaceful and it’s a lot more fun and I’m a lot more engaged with the people I work with.”
VIDEO: Rodney Crowell, “Something Has to Change” (from “Triage”)
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