Up to the 1988 release of his fourth album, Diamonds and Dirt, singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell had enjoyed immense success in the country music scene but crucially, not on his own albums. As a songwriter and producer, he provided the likes of the Oak Ridge Boys, Crystal Gayle, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Highway 101 with number one country hits. Naturally, this fact proved to be a source of frustration for the talented artist who had managed to offer a modern catholic perspective of the heart of country music without resorting to cliché or formula. His earlier albums displayed Crowell’s adventurous streak incorporating elements of rock and even new wave (this was the early ‘80s, folks) into his standard country format.
As Crowell prepared to record Diamonds and Dirt, producer Tony Brown convinced Crowell to complete the recordings quickly and not second-guess himself. The result—the smash hit that Crowell had been long craving! Finally yielding chart-toppers in his own name (count ‘em—five!), the success of Diamonds and Dirt was a culmination of Crowell’s hopes and dreams.
Much of this success can be owed to Crowell’s crucial decision to lean more towards country than rock and roll, evoking the spirit of Elvis Presley, Guy Clark, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Roy Orbison with passion and soul. On this expanded edition, you get all those smash hits viz. the gorgeous ballad “After All This Time”, the straightforward “I Couldn’t Leave You If I Tried”, the rockabilly “She’s Crazy For Leaving”, the traditional hillbilly “Above and Beyond” and the powerful duet (with then-spouse Roseanne Cash) “It’s Such a Small World” and more.
From the Beatlesque “I Know You’re Married” to the boogie-fried “Brand New Rag”, from the beautiful acoustic “The Last Waltz” to the driving shuffling “Crazy Baby”, the rest of the original line-up more than holds its own with the popular singles.
Then there’s the bonus material: three unreleased tunes from Crowell’s personal vault. The proletarian paean “I’ve Got My Pride But I’ve Got To Feed the Kids” (a C&W title if ever I’ve heard one!), the haunting atmospheric “It’s Lonely Out” and the almost Stonesy rave-up “Lies Don’t Lie” complete the package with aplomb and justify their inclusion.
Country fans, heck, if you love well-written songs with melody and great performances and which get your feet moving, make it a point to pick up this expanded edition of an all-time country classic!