Old Yellow Moon is every ounce a classic country record, a gleeful nod to times passed and memories fading. Yet it's also decidedly modern, a vigorous and sometimes boisterous take on classics and new tunes that feels as organic as a young band testing its weight on the road.
These platitudes might wave around in the air for some time were it not for the fact that Old Yellow Moon is a collaborative record from Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. It is a piece some 30 or so years in the making, an album that has its roots in the Hot Band days. But it's also a recording that feels decisive and vital, pointing to more than just a "that's how it's done" boast and forward to the light glowing in the distance.
That light blushing in the expanse of life becomes all the more essential when you've got dust under your fingernails. It becomes a pressure point, a compulsory goal at the end of many, many more milestones. And for Harris and Crowell, those milestones have taken them down paths of musical legend and personal struggle.
So when Crowell sings "I'd just stay home if I were smart" on the striking "It's Open Season On My Heart," he offers his lines with pure eyes. There's nothing left that a little elegiac steel guitar won't fix, after all, and Harris' exquisite harmony accompaniment bolsters the view that these are lives lived in unadorned, unpracticed totality.
Lest we imagine that the light glowing in the distance leads to some sort of swan song, these two kids dive headlong into buoyant declarations like "Chase the Feeling" by Kris Kristofferson and the blistering, bluesy thump of "Black Caffeine."
There is not an inauthentic track in the bunch, with even the rickety, lesser-than thrill of "Bull Rider" coming from a very real place. This sort of necessary truth, pushing crucially through Roger Miller's "Invitation to the Blues" and soaking out of the waltz of the title track, is what makes this Old Yellow Moon exceptional.
And as if that wasn't enough, the light shines on the best one-two punch on the record. There's a touched-up version of "Bluebird Wine," first offered on Harris' Pieces of the Sky, and the heart-rending "Back When We Were Beautiful" (try not to break when Harris sings "I guess you had to be there") that seem to offer what could best be described as a straight line from past to present.
That the light gleams on the line to the future goes without saying. Even the most superficial listen reveals that these kids will be alright, bathing in the never-too-small joy of conversation over coffee and under the Old Yellow Moon.