Take a look at the cover of Rodney Crowell’s brilliant new album, The Chicago Sessions, and you might recognize a familiar callback to the legendary songwriter’s 1978 debut.
“In a lot of ways, this album feels like that very first record to me,” Crowell reflects. “When my daughter Chelsea suggested we lay the artwork out similarly, the connection made perfect sense. There’s something very simple, very innocent about it. It’s just me and the band in a room together, loose and live and having fun.”
Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, The Chicago Sessions is indeed a throwback to Crowell’s early days of making records, but it’s no nostalgia trip. The songs here are vital and timely, touching on everything from love and mortality to race and religion, and the performances are nothing short of intoxicating, fueled by raw guitars, honky-tonk piano, and tight, punchy drums. Tweedy wields a light touch as a producer, his influence subtle yet unmistakable, and engineer Tom Schick’s mixes are dynamic and alive, alternately lush and spacious in all the right places with a spotlight fixed firmly on Crowell’s warm, weathered vocals throughout. Put it all together and you’ve got a masterful, cross-generational collaboration that manages to feel both fresh and familiar all at once, an incisive, engaging collection that balances careful craftsmanship with joyful liberation at every turn.