Songwriter Rodney Crowell and poet Mary Karr play Triple Door
Alt-country singer Rodney Crowell has teamed up with poet/memoirist Mary Karr ("The Liars Club") on a new album, "Kin: Songs by Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell." They celebrate the recent release of their disc Monday, June 18, at Seattle's Triple Door.
Special to The Seattle Times
On the Internet
Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr talk about "Kin": www.youtube.com; search "Crowell," "Kin."
Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr7:30 p.m. Monday at the Triple Door, 216 Union St., Seattle; $27-$37 (206-838-4333 or www.thetripledoor.net).
Alt-country patriarch Rodney Crowell didn't get into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame by teaming up with other tunesmiths. But the woman he's touring with, Mary Karr, isn't your typical songwriter.
An acclaimed poet and author of the 1995 New York Times best-seller "The Liar's Club," Karr plunged into songwriting with Crowell after he approached her several years ago as a fan. Drawn together by hardscrabble, booze-soaked childhoods in what she calls the "East Texas Ringworm Belt," they ended up creating "Kin: Songs by Mary Karr and Rodney Crowell" (Vanguard Records), an album packed with songs destined to become country standards.
Crowell and Karr celebrate the album's recent release at the Triple Door Monday, the last date of a 12-city tour with multi-instrumentalist Steuart Smith. At the club, they will re-create some of the camaraderie that led to "Kin" with a presentation including poetry, tall tales and songs. Karr doesn't sing, but she tells a wickedly funny story.
"Rodney's the star," Karr says. "I'm the rodeo clown."
Talking on speakerphone while taking a break from driving with Karr, Crowell, 61, said, "In most collaborations there's too much politeness, and the songs get watered down. But with Mary I recognized an artist capturing where I came from in a very articulate, richly true way. On a real instinctual level I recognized a kindred spirit."
"It's not just that he's a songwriter and I'm a poet," adds Karr, 57. "We're so much out of the same Godforsaken swamp, with crazy hard-drinking, bullet-holed houses. That's the key ... the connection between psychology and geography."
Haunted is a good word to describe "Kin," which features a dazzling cross-section of vocal personalities, including Norah Jones, Vince Gill, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Crowell and his ex-wife Rosanne Cash.
In laying bare the fraying, strangling, enveloping threads that tie people together, "Kin" isn't so much a song cycle as a dog-eared family album, full of revelatory images and telling details amid the prosaic scenes.
"I worried about the shotgun pattern, about the album becoming diffused by the different points of view," Crowell says. "But then I really sensed it had all come together, even with this many singers singing our songs, when Mary hit on 'Kin' as the title. The narrative holds as the voice of one family."
Andrew Gilbert: firstname.lastname@example.org