It can never be said that Rodney Crowell has not earned his induction a few years ago into the Nashville Songwriter's Hall of Fame.
As one of the most respected and prolific songcrafters in Music City, Crowell has written scores of chart-climbing tunes performed by such celebrated country artists as Highway 101, Crystal Gayle, The Oak Ridge Boys, Keith Urban, Martina McBride, Toby Keith and others. He also was married for a number of years to Rosanne Cash, writing and producing some of her finest albums.
Crowell's solo debut, 1978's "Ain't Living Long Like This," helped usher in the New Traditionalist movement in country music. But it took four more albums before Crowell's star turn came in 1989 with "Diamonds & Dirt," which spawned five chart-topping singles.
For his 14th album, "The Outsider," Crowell stands tall upon his Tennessee soapbox and addresses the things he sees from that vantage point -- greed, ignorance, fear, corruption, political ineptness, self-righteousness, arrogance and moral bankruptcy.
"It's not just the president, it's the whole machine," said the 55-year-old Texas native. "Political America is corporate America and you just can't separate the two; they are in bed together so deep that we the people need to look to Congress who represent us. Our government will only become morally balanced if the common man and woman demand it."
"The Outsider" is the final part of an introspective trilogy of albums that began with 2001's "The Houston Kid" and carried on with 2003's "Fate's Right Hand."
The material of these three albums constitutes most of Crowell's live concert set on his current tour, he explained, noting his dislike in being a live jukebox stocked with past hits.
"Life around me sort of demanded this of me," he explained of his recent focus on topical issues. "It's the job of an artist I think, to sort of reflect what's going on. That is sort of a rhetorical answer I guess. Honestly, I just can't help myself, because my sensibilities just brought me here."
Crowell came to fame as a member of Emmylou Harris' famous Hot Band in the mid-1970s.
"That was really where it all started for me," Crowell reflected. "I like to call that time 'The School of Emmylou,' because it was while working with her band that I really got the knack of songwriting and learned how to arrange songs. I collaborated with great musicians and learned an awful lot from them."
He also produced a number of albums for former wife Rosanne Cash.
Great musicians keep this rebel soul in Nashville, despite his aversion to the slick and mechanical methods by which the music industry is now run.
"Are you kidding, I've got some of the greatest musicians in the whole world living just a few miles in any direction from my house that I can call up whenever I'm in the studio working on something," he explained, noting that was just the case while making "The Outsider," which features contributions from John Prine, Beth Neilsen Chapman, Buddy Miller, Jedd Hughes, JD Souther, Randy Scruggs and even his old mentor and muse, Emmylou Harris on a cover of Bob Dylan's "Shelter From The Storm."
Rodney Crowell and the Outsiders, Will Kimbrough
When: 8:30 p.m. Wednesday (21-and-over show)
Where: FitzGerald's, 6615 Roosevelt Road, Berwyn
FYI: (708) 788-2118 or www.fitzgeraldsnightclub.com