10 Songs, 39 Minutes

EDITORS’ NOTES

Following a five-year hiatus, Rodney Crowell returned to recording with 1986’s Street Language. Crowell had long had a reputation as a sterling songwriter, but he later called this the album that prompted him to find his feet as a performer. His switch to Columbia helped him craft a new identity, and his creativity was influenced by his wife, Rosanne Cash, whose Rhythm and Romance Crowell had produced in 1984. Like that album, Street Language has a country heart dressed in rock ‘n’ roll threads. There are also R&B elements thanks to the talents of Booker T. Jones, who provides keyboards and is credited as coproducer. Rosanne helped Crowell understand that he didn’t have to be just one thing and that trying to conform to Nashville’s strictures was a waste of his time and talent. “Past Like a Mask” proved he could still write an exemplary country ballad, but Crowell sounds most alive on the full-bodied rock of “The Best That I Can,” “Stay (Don’t Be Cruel),” and “Let Freedom Ring,” which have a lot in common with contemporaneous albums by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

EDITORS’ NOTES

Following a five-year hiatus, Rodney Crowell returned to recording with 1986’s Street Language. Crowell had long had a reputation as a sterling songwriter, but he later called this the album that prompted him to find his feet as a performer. His switch to Columbia helped him craft a new identity, and his creativity was influenced by his wife, Rosanne Cash, whose Rhythm and Romance Crowell had produced in 1984. Like that album, Street Language has a country heart dressed in rock ‘n’ roll threads. There are also R&B elements thanks to the talents of Booker T. Jones, who provides keyboards and is credited as coproducer. Rosanne helped Crowell understand that he didn’t have to be just one thing and that trying to conform to Nashville’s strictures was a waste of his time and talent. “Past Like a Mask” proved he could still write an exemplary country ballad, but Crowell sounds most alive on the full-bodied rock of “The Best That I Can,” “Stay (Don’t Be Cruel),” and “Let Freedom Ring,” which have a lot in common with contemporaneous albums by Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty.

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