Houston Music

Rodney Crowell: Sex & Gasoline

Once upon a time, Rodney Crowell was a bona fide hit machine. With "Stars on the Water," "'Til I Gain Control Again," "Ain't Livin' Long Like This," "She's Crazy for Leaving" and "It's Such a Small World," Crowell's pen couldn't miss. Townes Van Zandt used to taunt him, but truth is Crowell has had a much larger, more productive career than Van Zandt could ever have imagined, and since his hit-parade days he's restyled himself as a mature poet/troubadour. When the 21st century arrived, the East Houston native switched gears and, beginning with 2001's The Houston Kid, delivered a trilogy of highly personal, theme-oriented records — with Fate's Right Hand and The Outsider — that made him an alt-country icon. Sex & Gasoline is the fourth and final entry in a series of what he calls "manifestos" based on his "struggle to come to terms with the new millennium," as Crowell tackles facets of what it means to be a woman in these days of bulimia, anorexia and Britney Spears. Produced by Joe Henry, the album has its rocking, edgy moments (the title track), but much of it is Crowell in poetic, introspective mode. This isn't party music; it's more like music to listen to in the dark or by which to burn a stack of Cosmopolitans. Despite some familiar elements from previous albums, Sex & Gasoline is certainly a lyrical stretch for Crowell, as he sings several songs from women's point of view and, on others, digs deep to parse the harshest relationship realities.

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William Michael Smith