NASHVILLE SKYLINE: Emmylou and Rodney, Steve Earle, the Mavericks

They Built Nashville Once. Now They're Renovating It

(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/ Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)

Just the other day, I was thinking that what the world needs now is maybe a new Mavericks album. And it would be even better if we got an Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell collaboration. And, if possible, could we add in a new Steve Earle & the Dukes project?

Mission accomplished. Some of the greatest architects of modern Nashville music are back with new works, to rebuild or at least renovate and update their creation.

Historically, these artists have one important musical link (besides winning Grammys). At one time or another, they all worked with musician-producer Tony Brown, who influenced Nashville greatly in the 1990s. Brown was president of MCA Nashville as well as an independent producer.

Earle's 1986 Guitar Town album became a No. 1 country album and introduced the term "new country" into the Nashville lexicon. Since then, he has served jail time, kicked drug addiction, recorded a number of diverse albums and written short stories, novels and a play. He now lives in Greenwich Village with his wife, singer-songwriter Allison Moorer, who is also one of his backing Duchesses.

His new album, The Low Highway by Steve Earle & the Dukes (And Duchesses) is due April 16 and is based on life on the road.

He's writing a memoir about his experiences with the late Townes Van Zandt and about his own recovery from substance abuse.

The Mavericks came from the Miami rock club scene in the late 1980s with a fresh Latin-tinged sound and signed with MCA Records in Nashville in 1991. The band split up in 2003 and subsequently reunited in 2012.

Now, they continue their feel-good, full speed ahead, rollicking music with their new In Time -- their first new work in 10 years. Raul Malo is still in full-throated splendor, and there is no other big voice quit like his. I've never heard anyone else successfully handle some of the trickier Roy Orbison songs. The 14 songs here range from big ballads, country shuffles, traditional country and a Spanish-language song, "Ven Hacia Mi (Come Unto Me)."

Harris and Crowell have done practically all there is possible to do in a Nashville-based musical career. Emmylou came to town after some spectacular duet work with the late Gram Parsons. Crowell came from the Houston area and moved to Nashville as a songwriter.

After Emmylou recorded his "'Till I Gain Control Again," she sought him out and asked him to join her Hot Band as rhythm guitarist.

Crowell's own albums and singles were spotty until 1988's Diamonds and Dirt yielded five consecutive No. 1 country singles.

Emmylou enjoyed great country success with both her albums and singles. And attempting to neatly summarize her long career would be unfair.

At any rate, after official Nashville started closing its doors to "older" artists, as well as eclectic talents such as Harris and Crowell, each has followed a personal muse, pursuing projects they are generally interested in.

Now they have collaborated on their first album of duets together, Old Yellow Moon. Songs include "Invitation to the Blues," "Dreaming My Dreams," "Bluebird Wine" and "Spanish Dancer."

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