Gloriously free of the spit-shine that’s turned so much of Nashville’s product into pop pap, Old Yellow Moon has a homey, lived-in feel — like a conversation amongst old friends, with everyone showing their scars.
That’s because, well, it went almost just like that.
Of course, Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell have known each other forever: He was in her band for some seven years, decades back. She appeared on his 1978 debut Ain’t Living Long Like This. Harris was married to the producer, beginning in the late 1970s, too.
Together they offer an ageless blending of Americana sounds over four Crowell tracks, plus eight cover tunes hand selected by producer Brian Ahern — reportedly around the table in his Nashville kitchen. That loose feel gives Old Yellow Moon — due February 26, 2013 from Nonesuch Records — its authenticity, its sense of no-bullshit honesty, starting with the album’s first-take title track.
Their cover of Crowell’s “Bluebird Wine” points a straight line back to their original hand-in-glove collaborations, but there’s something different in the listening. Originally the opening track on Harris Pieces of the Sky from 1975, it finds its way on to this new album with slightly updated words. After all, Crowell wrote that in his early 20s. As much as is no doubt the same here, some things do inevitably change.
That meshes well, both in theme and feel, elsewhere with mature songs like “Hanging Up My Heart,” by Hank DeVito, steel guitarist and long-time collaborator. “No more howling,” the song goes, not with a plaintive feel but with a steely resolve, “at the moonlight.”
All grown up now, Harris and Crowell approach this like the very best reunions — one that illuminates the past, even as it enriches the present.