"Bring 'em on," challenges Rodney Crowell. "Bring on the conservatives. I'll argue with them all day."
Like fellow Texan Steve Earle, Crowell has steered country music into new territory with his latest album, The Outsider. Mixing American roots music with pop, '60s rock and a dose of liberal outrage, the disc caps off a trilogy of recent releases that defy the Nashville formula. After a mid-'70s stint in Emmylou Harris's band, Crowell got his start in Music City USA as a songwriter for artists such as Crystal Gayle, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Roseanne Cash, whom he married and later divorced. Following years of critical success, his tunes began delving deeper; Houston Kidand Fate's Right Handwere two confessional records that set the stage for The Outsider's more satirical and socially progressive slant -- an agenda that goes against the grain of both the Bush administration and the country-music mainstream.
"I've never run into anyone wanting to deck me because my political views are different than theirs," Crowell says. "But some of the women who have been fans of mine a long time get up in my face and say, "Oh, why don't you do those romantic songs anymore?' And I say, "Because I've evolved.' I'd rather somebody oppose my politics than try to pin me down to the work that I did in 1985. I don't want to be an oldies act. It's an artist's job to evolve." And in his own eloquently plainspoken way, he might just drag country music along with him.
For much of his career, saxophonist/ flutist Charles Lloyd, tonight's headliner at the Boulder Theater, didn't receive the respect he deserved.
Lloyd first hit the circuit in the '50s, but because albums such as 1966's Forest Flower crossed over to pop audiences, he was consistently overlooked by the jazz elite. In the '70s, he temporarily gave up on trying to change such minds and began teaching transcendental meditation. But he re-emerged the following decade and, after signing with the venerable ECM imprint, released a series of strong discs that overhauled his reputation. Lloyd's most recent effort, 2004's Which Way Is East, continues this process. A two-CD package that pairs him with timekeeper Billy Higgins, East is a consistently rewarding effort that shows why Lloyd, who's in his late sixties, now receives the critical recognition that once evaded him.
The Charles Lloyd Trio, featuring Zakir Hussein and Eric Harland, takes the stage at 8 p.m. at the theater, 2032 14th Street in Boulder. Tickets range from $21.50 to $31; for details, call 303-786-7030 or visit www.bouldertheater.com. -- Michael Roberts