Band: Rodney Crowell, Will Kimbrough
Date: Monday, August 12 with doors at 6 p.m.
Venue: Grand Magnolia Ballroom & Suites, 3604 Magnolia St. (Pascagoula), www.grandmagnolia.com
Tickets: $45 available through Freshtix
The Grand Magnolia Ballroom is bringing another evening of legendary music to its elegant surroundings. Two singer-songwriters with a bevvy of Gulf Coast experience will be painting vivid sonic paintings of their respective homes.
Will Kimbrough will open the show. Kimbrough has been promoting his latest solo album “I Like It Down Here.” This album provides Kimbrough’s unique musical commentary on life in the Southeast. Kimbrough’s set should not only be a crowd pleaser for his fans but also for anyone who calls the Southeast home.
Iconic singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell will serve as the evening’s headliner. Many selections from Crowell’s extensive catalog of hit songs have been performed by the likes of The Oak Ridge Boys, Alan Jackson, Keith Urban, Emmylou Harris, LeeAnn Womack and many others.
Crowell’s visit to Pascagoula will be a chance for his fans to experience the sounds of his upcoming album “Texas” before its August 15 release. Dedicated to Crowell’s homestate, “Texas” could be considered his most ambitious to date. A number of special guests and longtime friends, including Willie Nelson, Ringo Starr, Ronnie Dunn and Lyle Lovett, appear on this album.
“Texas” is more than just a random collection of tracks about the Lone Star State. Crowell fashioned each song as both a beautiful sonic portrait and a complex lyrical narrative that portrays a side of Texas known only to longtime residents.
“Mainly, it’s not so much about what Texas might be, in terms of the rest of the country and what it represents and however you perceive culture or politics,” Crowell explained. “What I was striving for was a landscape painting and a characterization of a particular cultural phenomenon that was there when I was a kid growing up.”
The creation process of “Texas” was a natural movement that begins with singer-songwriter’s “20 year discussion” with fellow Texan Steve Earle over Crowell’s song “Brown & Root, Brown & Root.” Crowell says that he tried to maintain a “William Faulkner mindset” while penning this track. Ultimately, Crowell wanted his listeners to get a sense of the Texas landscape and culture from 30 years ago through the eyes of “a kid growing up in a dirt poor family.”
Earle performed “Brown & Root, Brown & Root” on many of his early tour runs. Over the years, both Crowell and Earle discussed archiving this song in the studio. Crowell says that when he and Earle finally decided to fulfill this shared dream that it was “the beginning of something.”
In addition to Earle, Crowell and ZZ Top guitarist/Texas native Billy Gibbons also shared an interest in collaborating in the studio. Once he found a song that “fit Billy,” Crowell and Gibbons laid down the tracks for “56 Fury.” Crowell says that he and Gibbons’ nostalgic trips into their respective formative years in Texas helped bring this song to life. He also says that their time in the studio gave him a deeper appreciation for Gibbons.
“We’ve known each other for a long time and grew up at the same time in Houston,” Crowell explained. “We’ve had many conversations about the music that we grew up on. When we got around to recording, I was like, ‘Man, I’m a big fan of ZZ Top and Billy Gibbons.’ That’s our American Rolling Stones.”
As “Texas” began to take form, Crowell received a very special invitation from another music legend. Ringo Starr sent word to Crowell that he would like to work with him on a song. Crowell says the opportunity to record with Starr transported him back to his childhood. As a paperboy for the “Houston Post” in the 60’s, he says that his transistor radio always hung from his bicycle’s handlebars. When classic Beatles tunes such as “She Loves You (Yeah, Yeah, Yeah)” would hit the airwaves, Crowell said that he would peddle faster and hit every porch at which he aimed. Crowell took the song “You’re Only Happy When You’re Miserable” to Starr, and the two recorded it in one take.
“I went and played Ringo my song,” Crowell said. “He said, ‘Okay, I feel it like this.’ It was just me and him and one other musician. I played the song through one time, and that was it. It was instinctual. I brought the tapes back to Nashville, and of course, my phone lit up. ‘Hey, you got a track with Ringo? Can I come play on it?’ Then, I had to be real thoughtful. I was really careful to make sure that we honored the good fortune of having the chance to have that musical experience.”
“What You Gonna Do Now” is one of two singles that preview this geographically inspired album. For this rocking musical dialogue, the singer-songwriter recruited Lyle Lovett to play the part of a “soft, wise individual.” Crowell played the part of a man “talking about the women that he really digs.” At the end of this “conversation,” Crowell says that his character realizes that the one that he really wanted has escaped. As with many great stories, this is a narrative that mingles truth with fiction.
“That’s pretty much an imaginative conversation, but I did model a couple of the characters after people I do know,” Crowell said. “The second verse is modeled after my friend Mary Karr. The first verse with the woman with the fishnets and dark hair was another friend that I knew. The third one was fictionalized, because I was making a story.”
If anything, “Texas” has thus far strengthened Crowell’s faith in the power of music. In the weeks leading up to the album’s release, Crowell embarked on a promotional radio tour that took him across the Lone Star State. Along the way, he encountered people that maintained an “exuberance and musical innocence” that resulted from an exploratory attitude towards music.
Crowell discovered there were people who still saw music as an experience that required full and complete attention, which he finds rare in this digital age. With this in mind, the Grand Magnolia Ballroom should provide the perfect environment for Crowell’s audience, whether they are longtime fans or newcomers to his big Texas sound.
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