Diamonds & Dirt

Rodney Crowell

Columbia / Legacy Records, 1989

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


By 1988, Rodney Crowell had to be thinking that if it weren't for bad luck, he'd have no luck at all. (Hey, that would make a great line for a song... no, wait a minute, it's been done.) The country artist had released five albums, and despite having a few minor hits, had become best known as a songwriter for other people - including "Shame On The Moon" for Bob Seger.

Fortunately, Crowell perservered, pushed ahead by his friends in the industry (including Roseanne Cash, his wife until the early '90s). His sixth album, Diamonds & Dirt, proved to be the key which unlocked the door for Crowell's fame - and even now, 13 years after its release, it's an enjoyable effort that shows why it spawned five chart-topping singles.

As part of the "American Milestones" series of reissues, Diamonds & Dirt has been re-released with three bonus tracks - tracks which run the gamut from outstanding to disappointing... but we're getting ahead of ourselves here.

Crowell's style of country has enough to please the more traditional fans of the genre, while there's enough pre-Garth modern touches that reeled in mainstream fans by the boatload. It helps to realize that Crowell didn't have Brooks's coattails to ride on, nor did he have the trails that Brooks made to follow. Crowell himself was responsible for the different touches he added to the music - and, if anything, Brooks should have been paying tribute to Crowell for opening up the doors.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Tracks like "She's Crazy For Leaving," "Brand New Rag" and "Crazy Baby" have an air of freshness that even those who don't like country music can't help but appreciate. Crowell's vocal delivery is what helps to seal the deal with this disc, winning you over from almost the first note to the final fade.

Crowell's appreciation of the difficulties of life are noted in "After All This Time," a tale of marriage that documents the good as well as the bad. Who else would have the guts to tell it like it is, in lines like "There were ways I should have thrilled you / There were days when I could have killed you" while singing about the love he has for his woman?

"The Last Waltz," the song which closes the original version of Diamonds & Dirt, was the perfect way for Crowell to bring this musical picture book to a close - and had I been in charge of the reissues, I'd have mixed the bonus tracks in with the rest of the album and left this song right where it belonged. Still, the song itself loses none of its power.

Of the three bonus tracks - well, "It's Lonely Out" proves why some songs shouldn't make it past the cutting room floor. It's ambitious, I'll give it that, but it doesn't fit the general scheme of the album. Also, the different rhythm pattern in the chorus makes it sound like Crowell and band miss the beat from time to time.

"Lies Don't Lie," on the other hand, is an exceptional track that should have made it onto the original version of Diamonds & Dirt, though I'm at a loss to explain why it didn't. The remaining track, "I've Got My Pride But I've Got To Feed The Kids," sounds more like a traditional hard-luck country song, something that Crowell doesn't seem like he's a natural to write or perform. That said, it's still a powerful piece of music; having been in the position of being unemployed for two months back in '95, I appreciate the sentiments that Crowell wrote.

Diamonds & Dirt rightfully brought Crowell to people's attention in the world of country music. While it can be argued whether or not this disc was the defining moment in Crowell's career (even to this day), the quality of this album is not up for discussion. If you want to discover who Crowell is as a musician, this is the album to start with.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Columbia / Legacy Records, and is used for informational purposes only.