Last night I went to a party in celebration of Rodney Crowell's forthcoming memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks (Knopf). It was a very Nashville evening—in attendance were local musicians and writers like Alice Randall and Robert Hicks, as well as Crowell's editor Gary Fisketjon. The show took place in the studio of noted photographer Jim McGuire.
After a pleasant cocktail hour, Vince Gill and Emmylou Harris took turns joining Crowell onstage as he alternately read from his book (often to chuckles from the audience) and performed some of his best-loved songs and newer hits like "I Know Love Is All I Need."
While writing his memoir, which he called "sculpting a memory," Crowell struck up a friendship with fellow Texan and memoirist Mary Karr. The pair ended up writing some songs together, and Crowell played two of them—he says he hopes to record them one day.
That said, the song that drew the biggest response from the crowd was the one he wrote and performed with Vince Gill. The chorus line "It's hard to kiss the lips at night/that chew your ass out all day long" was borrowed from Vince's father and got both men in trouble with their wives when it was first played. (See a video of Crowell playing this song in 2008.)
Crowell also performed two songs with friend and former bandmate Emmylou Harris, whose soaring voice was as beautiful as ever no matter what she said about having a cold.
Crowell proved himself as adept a reader as he is a singer. The final selection he read brought him and several audience members near tears—it was the story of introducing his mother to her idol, Roy Acuff, 50 years after she had attended the show where she met her husband.
Identifying herself as a lifelong fan, she told the most popular country musician of her generation that she'd met the love of her life at his concert in the Buchanan High School gymnasium, obliging everyone, myself included, to imagine this had taken place only a night or two before. . . . The meeting lasted no more than three minutes, but I wish it could've gone on forever.
Crowell will embark on a 25 city tour this January—catch him if you can.