Sex & Gasoline
Few would dispute that after a long career of starts and stops, Rodney Crowell is again firing on all cylinders. After early success with a string of remarkable hits, the Houston songwriter settled in for a champion slump. Yet beginning with 2001’s The Houston Kid, he released a trio of rejuvenated recordings, and following a three-year hiatus, Sex & Gasoline (Yep Roc) picks right up where those left off. Well, mostly. The angry, muscular rock of 2005’s The Outsider has given way to an appealing, if slightly more languid, mid-period Dylan sound—albeit one with the distinctive rubbery textures of producer Joe Henry. Crowell has always worn his heart on his sleeve, at times to a fault, but he’s found that sweet spot between art and true confessions. By avoiding the latter (only “Closer to Heaven” qualifies here), his lyrical work finds universal appeal. The songs—which, as always, are focused on making sense of the modern world and, more specifically, the women in it—range from fatalistic to idyllic. He’s mastered his craft, even if the search for logic still eludes him.