Pioneers of the country-rock scene, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have enjoyed a fruitful working relationship since the mid-70s, both contributing to each other’s respective major-label debuts with the latter also appearing in an early incarnation of the former’s Hot Band. But whilst they have continued to co-write together, Old Yellow Moon is the first time they have committed to a full-length collaborative album. A mixture of slightly arbitrary cover versions and new recordings of songs Crowell originally penned for other artists, its 12 tracks provide an odd moment of nostalgia-wallowing. But with themes of alcoholism, the sadness of growing old and gut-wrenching heartbreak, it’s not always the gentle ride you might expect. Here’s a look at five of its most emotive lyrics.
An unexpectedly jaunty way to reignite their musical partnership, this infectious slice of old-fashioned honky-tonk, originally recorded by another former Hot Band colleague Hank DeVito, may sound feel-good on the surface. But its upbeat nature still doesn’t distract from the pair’s confession that they are both handing in their resignation letters of love after coming to the conclusion that they’re a bit too long in the tooth to face the prospect of a broken heart any more: [LISTEN]
Late in the night, been working every day to keep you satisfied
It just ain’t right to hear you say to me, you would let love fly
Well I’m hanging up my heart, in the lodge in the bunkhouse
I don’t wanna be wounded by the wrong kind of love
Perhaps the only musical misfire on the record, the party vibes of “Chase The Feeling” feel slightly inappropriate considering the song’s original intentions. First appearing on his 2006 LP, This Old Road, grizzled troubadour Kris Kristofferson laid his soul bare with a painfully honest account of how he shamefully prioritised the demon drink over every other aspect, including his wife and children, of his life. However, Harris & Crowell deliver its sentiment with such glee that it feels more like a celebration of addiction than a cautionary tale.
Let it take the joy you love
And turn it to despair
You know you knew better, baby
You just didn’t care
Now aged 65, there’s a genuine poignancy to Harris adopting the role of a wisened lady of advancing years looking back fondly on her youth whilst simultaneously decrying the inevitable process of growing old. Arguably even more tear-jerking than the Matraca Berg original, the protagonist’s attempt to convince her much younger listener that she and her late husband were at one point capable of dancing the night away is both endearing and achingly sad.
I guess you had to be there, she said, you had to be
She handed me a yellowed photograph
And then said, See
This was my greatest love, my one and only love
And this is me
Back when we were beautiful, see
Recorded by everyone from Waylon Jennings to Marianne Faithfull to Alison Krauss, “Dreaming My Dreams With You” is undoubtedly one of the record’s most recognisable numbers. But ramping up the anguish by performed the melancholic ballad as a duet, Harris & Crowell’s version is arguably the most bittersweet as the distant lost loves reflect on the loneliness they have felt since their split, whilst valiantly trying to convince themselves they haven’t given up on the idea of The Big L: [LISTEN]
I hope that I won’t be that wrong anymore
Maybe I’ve learned this time
I hope that I find what I’m reaching for
The way that it is in my mind
Originally recorded by E Street Band member Patti Scialfa on 1993’s Rumble Doll, Harris turns up the heat considerably as she confides to her mother about a Latino lover who is so magnetic that she’s tempted to follow his every move. But the emotive core of the song arrives when she poetically describes the abject disappointment that comes with discovering that the object of your affections isn’t worthy of the pedestal he’s been placed upon.
Oh mama when you were a young girl
Did you ever love a man so much
As if he were some fantastic jewel
That you should never be worthy of
But all those illusions strip and fall
And he is just a man after all