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Tuesday, 14 August 2012 11:58

Charting the Music: 'Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell'

Charting the Music: 'Kin: Songs by Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell'
Written by Sarah Edwards
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In a bold musical project aptly titled "Kin," singer-songwriter Rodney Crowell and poet-memoirist Mary Karr have crafted a collection of lyrical stories, not unlike chapters in a book, that narrate a family history.

Steeped in the sounds of traditional country-folk, the album is enriched by a glowing line-up of artists who take turns singing lead vocals, breathing uncommon personality into the music and strengthening the sense that we've found our way into a family portrait. As perspectives and themes shift with each track, the album cycles as part love letter, part lament, with an underlying expression of forgiveness.

88.1 KDHX chart position: #1 Americana for August 8, 2012.

Record label, release date and producers: Vanguard Records released "Kin" on June 5, 2012. Joe Henry produced the album.

Can be heard on: The Back Country with Jeff Corbin, Songwriters Showcase with Ed Becker, Music at Work with Curt and Interstate with Pat Wolfe.

Hometown: Both Karr and Crowell were born in coastal towns of Southeast Texas.

Key tracks: "If the Law Don't Want You," "I'm a Mess" and "Momma's On a Roll."

About the producer: Joe Henry is a Grammy award-winning producer, working with artists such as Allen Toussaint, the Carolina Chocolate Drops and Elvis Costello. Before "Kin," he produced tracks for Bonnie Raitt's 2012 album, "Slipstream." Henry has also released 12 studio albums of his own.

About the label: With a $10,000 loan from their father, two brothers, Seymour and Maynard Solomon, founded Vanguard Records as an independent record label in 1950 in New York City. Although it began as a label tailored to classical music, its catalog eventually expanded to include country-folk and pop artists. Currently, Vanguard represents artists such as Merle Haggard, the Indigo Girls and Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers.

Band Members: Crowell himself sings lead on only four tracks. The others are handled (in order of appearance) by Norah Jones, Vince Gill, Lucinda Williams, Lee Ann Womack, Roseanne Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Emmylou Harris.

RIYL: Alison Krauss, Mary Chapin Carpenter and John Prine

Surprising fact: After Crowell finished reading Karr's "The Liar's Club," he named-checked her in his song "Earthbound," alongside Aretha Franklin, Tom Waits and Walter Cronkite, among others. 

Awards: Crowell won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1989. In 2006 he received the AMA Lifetime Achievement Award for Songwriting. Karr's memoir, "The Liar's Club," published in 1995, was on the New York Time's best-seller list for over a year. She is also the recipient of multiple fellowships and nonfiction writing awards.

What the critics say: "In laying bare the fraying, strangling, enveloping threads that tie people together, 'Kin' isn't so much a song cycle as a dog-eared family album, full of revelatory images and telling details amid the prosaic scenes." – Andrew Gilbert, The Seattle Times

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