It took Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell nearly four decades to get around to making their first duets album, Old Yellow Moon, and just two years to follow it with The Traveling Kind. Their collaborative debut may have swept two of the biggest awards in their genre — a Best Americana Album Grammy and Album Of The Year at the Americana Awards — but there were more powerful incentives for them to team up again.
They’d found each other early in their lives and careers, Crowell becoming Harris’ Texas-bred harmony-singing partner and one of her primary song sources while she found her footing as a tradition-celebrating West Coast country singer the longhairs could love. And to Old Yellow Moon they brought what this writer described as “a long-running, non-romantic back story that’s given them empathy, trust and the ability to help free each other from self-consciousness.” Vocally, they nudged, teased and cradled each other, not “acting their ages so much as inhabiting every age they’ve ever known each other to be.”
That album was a chance for Harris and Crowell to savor simply singing older songs together. For The Traveling Kind, they spent time co-writing, something they’ve only occasionally done together in the past, cultivating the intimately shared language that appears in the title track. “We don’t all die young to save our spark from the ravages of time,” they begin, softening their deliveries as they reach the verse’s lived-in conclusion: “But the first and last to leave their mark someday become the traveling kind.”
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