Rodney Crowell released The Chicago Sessions today via New West Records. The 10-song set was produced by Jeff Tweedy and recorded by Tom Schick at Wilco’s Loft in Chicago. The masterful, cross-generational collaboration follows his acclaimed 2021 album Triage. Hailed by Rolling Stone as a “country music trailblazer” and by The New York Times as an artist whose songwriting “gets better and sharper with age,” Crowell delivers an incisive, engaging collection that balances careful craftsmanship with joyful liberation at every turn. Sounding both fresh and familiar, it’s among his very best work.
The Chicago Sessions has been met with wide critical acclaim with Uncut Magazine saying in their 8/10 rated review, “At 72 years of age, Crowell remains both a vital link to (Townes) Van Zandt’s classic sensibility and an enduring force whose vitality shows few signs of waning.” PopMatters awarded it 9/10 stars saying, “Rodney Crowell travels to the house Wilco built and subtly delivers one of his best albums in years,” while American Songwriter called it “Another triumph from Rodney Crowell.” Holler said, “Reminiscent of Johnny Cash in his later years, when he carved out something fresh with Rick Rubin… Hopefully this album is the beginning of a beautiful friendship for Crowell and Tweedy.” As Jeff Tweedy puts it, “The way that Rodney writes is deeply connected to a classic era of country songwriters that I’ve always loved. In my estimation, it’s as close as I can get to working with Townes Van Zandt or Felice and Boudleaux Bryant — people who crafted songs with a very specific sensibility. And I like being near that.”
Prior to the album release, Crowell shared the videos for the album’s first single, “Everything at Once,” which features footage recorded at The Loft during recording. A co-write with Tweedy, the song walks a tightrope between hope and despair as it playfully wrestles with overstimulation in an overcrowded world. Perhaps no track better encapsulates the spirit of the record. Crowell also previously released the video for the album highlight “Loving You Is The Only Way to Fly” as well as the video for “Lucky,” which features Crowell wearing John Lennon’s legendary suit worn during the opening of The Beatles’ debut film A Hard Day’s Night.
Looking at the cover of The Chicago Sessions, listeners might recognize a familiar callback to Crowell’s 1978 debut, Ain’t Living Long Like This. “In a lot of ways, this album feels like that very first record to me,” he reflects. “When my daughter suggested we lay the artwork out similarly, the connection made perfect sense. There’s something very simple, very innocent about it. It’s just me and the band in a room together, loose and live and having fun.” The Chicago Sessions is indeed a throwback to the legendary Crowell’s early days of making records, but it’s no nostalgia trip. The songs are vital and timely, touching on everything from love and mortality to race and religion, and the performances are nothing short of intoxicating, fueled by raw guitars, honky-tonk piano, and tight, punchy drums. Tweedy wields a light touch as a producer, his influence subtle yet unmistakable. Engineer Tom Schick’s mixes are dynamic and lively, alternately lush and spacious in all the right places, with a spotlight fixed firmly on Crowell’s warm, weathered vocals throughout.
While most of The Chicago Sessions consists of newly written material, Crowell revisits two tracks from the 1970s. The first, the aching “You’re Supposed to Be Feeling Good,” is a Crowell original first recorded by Emmylou Harris on her 1977 Luxury Liner record. While he had long intended to record it himself, the stars didn’t align until a new arrangement fell into place with Tweedy on guitar. The second, Townes Van Zandt’s “No Place to Fall,” had always held a special place in Crowell’s heart. “The first time I heard that song, Townes was sitting across the table from me at Guy and Susanna Clark’s house,” Crowell recalls. “He said, ‘Hey, I’ve got a new song for you,’ and it’s been imprinted on my psyche ever since. I wanted to record it as an homage to somebody that I learned a lot about songwriting from.”
Crowell brought three players with him to The Loft — guitarist Jedd Hughes, pianist Catherine Marx, and bassist Zachariah Hickman — while enlisting Windy City natives John Perrine and Spencer Tweedy (Jeff’s son) to split drumming duties. Jeff Tweedy appears on vocals, guitars, and banjo throughout.
Crowell will also launch his tour in support of the album this Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. The initial run of dates also features a stop at the legendary Gruene Hall in New Braunfels, TX. Additionally, Crowell has announced the dates for his annual songwriting camp “It Starts With A Song 2023” August 21-24 in Nashville as well as being a part of the Cayamo Cruise lineup of artists next March 1-8, 2024. See tour dates, with more to be added, below.
For Rodney Crowell, it’s always been about the songs. Born and raised in Houston, he moved to Nashville in the early 1970s, coming to prominence first as a writer before establishing himself as a critically acclaimed solo artist in his own right. With 15 #1 songs on the country music charts throughout his career, along with two GRAMMY Awards, he has written hits for such country legends as Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, and George Strait, as well as for current chart toppers like Tim McGraw and Keith Urban. He’s been covered by r&b icons (Etta James) and rock legends (Van Morrison, Bob Seger).
Throughout the last 20 years, he has been celebrated by the music industry. In 2003, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and in 2006 he received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Songwriting from the Americana Music Association. In 2017 he was honored with ASCAP’s prestigious Founder’s Award, and in 2019 he was presented with the Poet’s Award by the Academy of Country Music. In addition to his prolific output as a singer, songwriter, and producer, he also found time to become a celebrated author, publishing his memoir, Chinaberry Sidewalks, and a lyrical retrospective, Word for Word, both to widespread praise.
It would be difficult to overstate Crowell’s impact on country and roots music over the past 50 years. He may be a seasoned veteran, but the transcendent The Chicago Sessions feels like the first time all over again.
The Chicago Sessions is available across digital platforms, on compact disc, and standard black vinyl. An extremely limited pressing of 100 copies on Royal Blue vinyl is available only in Chicago record stores, while 1,000 copies pressed on Denim Blue vinyl is available at independent retailers worldwide. The Chicago Sessions is available NOW via NEW WEST RECORDS.
The Chicago Sessions Track Listing:
2. Somebody Loves You
3. Loving You Is the Only Way to Fly
4. You’re Supposed to Be Feeling Good
5. No Place to Fall
6. Oh Miss Claudia
7. Everything at Once (feat. Jeff Tweedy)
8. Ever the Dark
9. Making Lovers Out of Friends
10. Ready to Move On
Rodney Crowell On Tour
With Special Guests Rob Ickes & Trey Hensley
May 7, 2023 - Chicago, IL - Old Town School of Folk Music
May 9, 2023 - Denver, CO - Soiled Dove Underground
May 11, 2023 - Mount Vernon, WA - Lincoln Theatre
May 12, 2023 - Portland, OR - Alberta Rose Theatre
May 14, 2023 - Grass Valley, CA - The Center For the Arts
May 15, 2023 - Petaluma, CA - Mystic Theatre
May 16, 2023 - Santa Barbara, CA - Lobero Theatre
June 1, 2023 - Tulsa, OK - Switchyard Tulsa at Cain’s Ballroom
June 2, 2023 - Dallas, TX - Longhorn Ballroom
June 3, 2023 - Kerrville, TX - The Arcadia Live
June 15, 2023 - Stephenville, TX - Birdsong Amphitheater
June 16, 2023 - Houston, TX - Heights Theatre
June 17, 2023 - New Braunfels, TX - Gruene Hall
July 13, 2023 - Bristol, TN - Paramount Bristol
July 15, 2023 - Union Hall, VA - The Coves Amphitheater at Smith Mountain Lake
July 16, 2023 - Alexandria, VA - The Birchmere
July 18, 2023 - Northampton, MA - BOMBYX Center for Arts & Equity
July 19, 2023 - Ridgefield, CT - The Ridgefield Playhouse
July 20, 2023 - Rockport, MA - Shalin Liu Performance Center
July 22 - Fall River, MA - Narrows Center For The Arts
August 21-24, 2023 - Nashville, TN - Rodney Crowell: It Starts With A Song 2023
March 1-8, 2024 - Miami, FL - Cayamo Cruise