Voices like Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell are classic. Their simple, smart and beautiful country songs are timeless and never go out of style. On The Traveling Kind, the follow up to their 2013 collaboration Old Yellow Moon, they continue to charm with their warm, well-matched harmonies and clever songwriting. Each song is a lovely gem, and the two of them sound like they were meant to sing together.
As an album, Old Yellow Moon had more of an old soul. Many of the songs felt like old fashioned hymns and there was a deeper feeling of spirituality and even darkness. The Traveling Kind takes a more modern approach to songwriting, with fresh sounding roots-rock tunes. There’s even a cover of Lucinda Williams’ classic “I Just Wanted to See You So Bad”, and it’s by far one of the best tracks on the album. Harris and Crowell own that song to the point of forgetting it’s not theirs. The sweetness of their voices bring a romance to it that replaces Williams’ raw desperation. Both versions are magnificent, but it’s a song that is so well-suited to these two.
You can hear the merging of all of their influences from Bob Dylan to Hank Williams, to Lucinda. There’s a classic folksy tone to The Traveling Kind, despite how country it gets, and that Southern comfort and warmth radiates through every note. “Le Danse de la Joie” is an old timey Louisiana tune, and “Bring it On Home to Memphis” has a wild, honkytonk spirit and Crowell’s clear as day wail. “Her Hair Was Red” is classic Harris. A ballad that’s got all the swooning drama only her stunning voice can convey. “Just Pleasing You” is similarly romantic and sad, telling the story of desperate lovers with a Cajun-sounding melody, like an old bluegrass tune.
“You Can’t Say We Didn’t Try” is perhaps their best collaboration on The Traveling Kind, with their voices perfectly in sync. “I’ve been holdin’ on to you/You’ve been holdin’ on to me/Cause neither of us wants to be/The first to say goodbye/And so it goes we must admit/How we both thought that this was it/Though we couldn’t make the pieces fit/You can’t say we didn’t try,” they sing, never wavering from their harmony. If this isn’t the most tragic breakup song, I don’t know what is. A poignant, relatable tale of failing to make it work, it’s so well written it feels like it has existed forever.
The songs on this record sound like they just flowed out of them like the most natural thing in the world. And given their history, and the amount of time they waited before they eventually recorded an album together (40 years), it’s safe to say the wait has been worth it.