The String

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"I'm from San Benito, TX down a dirty dusty road," sings Charley Crockett on the title track of his upcoming album The Valley. As he goes on, we learn of an absentee father, a hard-working mamma, dangerous gambles, gun barrels and "trouble everywhere I turned." There's not an untrue or embellished line in the song. Yet as literal as it is, the narrative sounds more like something from Woody Guthrie's time than 21st century America. Crockett's country blues is neither appropriated nor contrived.

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There are several ways to take the measure of a music career as it advances and grows. From the artists' point of view few things matter more than the hard-won amenities of the road. A few years ago, Caroline Spence released the true-story song "Hotel Amarillo" in which she's traveling solo, doing 500 miles in a day, eking out enough scratch to end a tough day with a room and a bottle of wine.

She sings a music biz double entendre: "I've been playing shows out west with no guarantee/ That anybody's ever gonna give a damn about me."

The String: Rodney Crowell Changes His Mind

Jan 18, 2019

To kick off 2019 in its ongoing coverage of American music and its culture, The String features a true icon of authentic country/roots music, indeed one of the artists around whom the Americana format was conceived in the 1990s. Rodney Crowell is both a songwriter’s songwriter and an artist who’s reached and moved mainstream music fans since breaking out in the 80s. He embodies the honed edge of Texas folk poetry and the refinement of Nashville songcraft. And he’s stayed artistically ambitious across four decades of work.