Of all the Houston-bred musicians who left for greener pastures, none draw more inspiration from the Bayou City than Rodney Crowell. Talk about hometown love -- Crowell has chosen to play a small club date here on the day his new record is released worldwide. But while his last effort, the critically-acclaimed The Houston Kid served both as a youthful reminiscence and a slayer of ghosts, the new Fate's Right Hand finds Crowell delving deeply into the here and now. Fodder for songs here includes such topics as the deaths of friends, middle-aged soul-searching, lessons for children, dealing with consequences and his own real-life anxiety attacks. Jesus, Buddha, George Harrison, and Minnie Pearl are all cited in press materials as influences for the record. And like most of his music, it embraces a hard-to-pigeonhole cross-pollination of rock, country and blues. The de rigueur post-September 11 commentary comes in the form of the plainly-titled "It's a Different World Now" (which, sadly, does not sample the TV show theme song ). In the hands of a lesser songwriter, this material would seem wimpy and navel-gazing, but from Rodney Crowell, it comes across as words of wisdom with a solid backbeat. While the show will draw heavily on the new material, Crowell will probably also include turns on hits he wrote for others, his own mainstream country smashes, and the occasional Townes Van Zandt or Guy Clark tune. With Fate's Right Hand, the Houston "Kid" has now reached middle age -- but he's still got plenty to say, and he won't be coasting anytime soon.
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