RODNEY CROWELL TRIO
18 Biltmore Ave
Asheville, NC, 28801
Doors 7:30 PM / Show 8:00 PM
Watch & Listen
RODNEY CROWELL TRIO
Rodney Crowell has been doing this for a while. In fact, his career has been so long and varied that you have to specify exactly which “this” you’re talking about. There’s the record-making, which dates back to 1978 (when he released Ain’t Living Long Like This), peaked commercially a decade later (with Diamonds & Dirt, which yielded five number-one country hits), and has only grown in sophistication and power in recent years. There’s the fiercely lyrical and personal songwriting, which has attracted the attention of everyone from Bob Seger (who famously covered “Shame On the Moon”) to Keith Urban (who had a number-one hit with “Making Memories of Us”). And then there’s the autobiographical writing, which extends beyond the music world to a memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, which was published in 2011.
Now there’s a new album, Close Ties, on which Crowell both demonstrates his strengths as a songwriter and illustrates how he has learned to balance personal recollection, literary sophistication, and his profound musical reach. It’s at once his most intimate record and his most accessible, the product of years of understanding the ways songs can enter—and be entered by—life. “It’s a loose concept album, you could say,” Crowell says. “And the concept is related to how you tell stories about yourself. Having a few years ago written a memoir, my sensibilities toward narrative—especially trying to find a common thread in different pieces of writing—had become a part of my songwriting process. One of the reasons I brought Kim Buie in as a producer is that I wanted her to work with me the way an editor works, to look at a number of songs and find the ones that worked together to create a tone.”
Close Ties is a roots record, in the sense that Crowell himself has deep roots that stretch back into the alternative country scene of the early seventies. But is defies easy classification. Is it country? Is it a songwriter record? Does art need categories? “Well,” Crowell says, “when I was a quote-unquote country star for my fifteen minutes of major fame, I hated the label. I bristled at it and got myself in trouble. I would go around to radio stations and that early morning drive-time, chirpy optimism, and I would come across as grumpy. They knew my mind wasn’t in the right place. I was an interloper in that world. I didn’t fit it. It soon spit me out. In hindsight, it should have: I was no asset to their goal, which was to satisfy their advertisers.”
On the other hand, the rise of Americana music struck a nerve with him. “I have declared my loyalty to Americana. It’s a hard category for people to get their heads around, or at least the terminology is. But all the people who represent it—Townes van Zandt, Guy Clark, Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and more recent stars like John Paul White and Jason Isbell—share a common thread, and that thread is poet. Whether they are actual poets or their music exemplifies a poetic sensibility, generally speaking, the Americana artist shuns commercial compromise in favor of a singular vision. Which resonates with me.”
Fifty years after Crowell first started playing as a teen in Houston garage bands, he still believes in the power of songs, and the responsibility of singing them. “The interesting thing about that garage band back then is that we would go from ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ by the Beatles to ‘Honky Tonkin’’ by Hank Williams. In southeast Texas those songs fit side by side. ‘Drinkin’ Wine Spo-de-o-dee’ went right next to ‘Crossroads’ by Cream. That was the beauty of it, that all of that existed side by side.” Crowell finds himself going back to that music, but also going even earlier. “Recently, I think—I hope—that my study of the blues is starting to show up in my music. Those artists, whether it’s Lightnin’ Hopkins or John Lee Hooker or the acoustic Delta players, connected to something fundamental. With that in mind, I’m trying to move forward but also get back there.”
Twenty-five-year-old Australian Joe Robinson is considered uniquely gifted as a virtuoso guitarist and singer/songwriter. He walks a tightrope between the instrumental music that has put him in the spotlight and a unique fusion of vocally based rock, blues, jazz, and R&B that is entirely his own.
Born in the backwoods of Temagog, on the mid-north coast of New South Wales, Australia, his six-string ability and compositional insight have already earned him a worldwide following.
Robinson started playing guitar at age nine, abandoning the piano lessons he’d been taking for the past three years. He quickly outpaced his guitar instructor and began educating himself via the Internet. At just 13 years old, he won the Australian National Songwriting Competition.
Within a couple of years he was touring regularly and sharing stages with artists such as Tommy and Phil Emmanuel, both of whom served as mentors. He released his first album of original material, Birdseed, in 2005 at age 15.
When a 16-year-old Robinson burned through a Chet-inflected medley of “Day Tripper” and “Lady Madonna” at the opening round of the 2008 Australia’s Got Talent television series competition, the entire house—including the judges— gave him a standing ovation. He went on to win $250k with his take on Tommy Emmanuel’s arrangement of “Classical Gas.”
Tommy Emmanuel then invited him to Nashville, where among other things he hooked up with Brad Paisley’s producer Frank Rogers, who helmed his 2009 release, Time Jumpin’. That same year, Robinson was awarded the title of “Senior Grand Champion Performer of the World” at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood.
He has also performed at Bonnaroo, and was voted “Best New Talent” in the Guitar Player Readers’ Poll.
Robinson has spent the last few years touring North America and abroad (China, Japan, Europe, and Australia) playing festivals and headlining clubs, which has enabled him to define himself as a budding world visionary. Displaying his virtuosity on electric as well as acoustic guitar, Robinson landed a coveted spot as one of Australian Guitar Magazine’s Top 50 Best Guitarists.
Robinson’s Let Me Introduce You … (Joe’s Garage), produced by Rogers and released in 2011, found Robinson accompanied by an all-star team of musicians including drummer Keith Carlock, bassists Michael Rhodes and Bernard Harris, keyboardist Gordon Mote, percussionist Eric Darken, and background vocalist Hershel Boone. The result is a record replete with catchy melodic hooks, sophisticated pop progressions, soulful vocals, and superb guitar playing that encompasses influences from Sweet Baby James to Django. “I’ve been meaning to make an album like this from the start,” Robinson said. “So, after spending years touring as a solo instrumental guitarist, I wanted to push myself in another direction.”
This ultra-talented 25-year-old’s unique musical sensibility, thoroughly modern guitar tones, and tenor voice are at the core of the self-penned songs about communication and self-realization found on his EP, Gemini, Vol. I (2014), which followed 2012’s vibrant EP, Toe Jam. Experimenting with electronic looping, junk percussion and even a toothbrush scrub, Robinson’s one-man-band approach used on the self-produced Gemini, Vol. I helped to create his new sonic landscape. Jacquire King, a three-time GRAMMY Award-winning mixer, put the final touches on the recording.
“I wanted to call the project Gemini because I learned so much about myself while recording these songs,” Robinson says. “Being creative and expanding my scope helped make sure the voice I’m listening to is the one that’s inside of me. When I listen to that voice, I know I’ve got something unique and genuine to say.”
"Since day one, I found it easier and more intriguing to create songs rather than learn existing ones, so the compositional element of my music is somewhat deep-rooted,” Robinson says.
After touring as a soloist for quite some time, Robinson toured predominately with his own trio over the course of the past few years. However, recently he has committed to a new solo show featuring both electric and acoustic guitar. This amazing new show is touring now.
His latest music project, Gemini Vol. 2, is a four-track EP released in 2015 that features his deepest and most creative work to date. Robinson played all the instruments, produced and mixed the project.
In addition to touring on his own, Robinson has been hitting the road with Guitar Army, which features fellow master guitarists/singers/songwriters Robben Ford and Lee Roy Parnell.
Joe is touring with Tommy Emmanuel during early 2017 and is also writing for an upcoming studio album.
“ONCE IN A GREAT WHILE A YOUNG GUITARIST CAPTURES THE ATTENTION OF MUSIC LOVERS EARLY IN HIS CAREER AND MANAGES TO SUSTAIN THIS INTEREST AS HE MATURES CREATIVELY AND SHEDS THE ‘PRODIGY’ LABEL. JOE ROBINSON IS ONE OF THOSE RARE TALENTS.”
- Premier Guitar