Published May 12, 2015The chemistry is unmistakable between Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell on The Travelling Kind, their second duet LP. This 11-track set finds the pair of Americana veterans engaging in wistful harmonies (especially on the early cuts "No Memories Hanging Round" and "You Can't Say We Didn't Try") and slyly flirtatious back-and-forths. The best example of the latter is also the album's strongest song: "Le Danse De La Joie," which features a stomping drumbeat and Crowell gleefully urging his partner to "paint me on that lipstick smile, dance around the house in style." As their voices playfully synchronize in French for the song's chorus, listeners will be unable to keep from smiling.
Unfortunately, some of the album's low points will also induce some serious eye rolls, especially Harris' lyrics on "Higher Mountains," which are saddled with clichés about valleys, peaks and great divides that the veteran songstress' trademark lilting vocals can't transcend, despite her admirable efforts. She sounds much better on "Bring It On Home To Memphis," which not only features her glorious high notes, but also an astoundingly effective spoken word breakdown in which she practically raps about lazy rivers, mystery trains and barflies that "made light of the hot summer breeze." Crowell also has his share of winning lines, on songs like "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home Now," in which he belts out unabashedly bitter tidbits like: "I don't wonder where you are, I don't even care… You're not my cross to bear."
Those highlights make up for the brief, but brutal, moments of derivative fare, proving that Harris and Crowell can bring the best out in each other. Let's hope this is only the beginning of their spirited partnership. (Nonesuch)