Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Rodney Crowell: The Houston Kid [Sugar Hill, 2001]
Big deal. The triple-threat guitarist-songwriter-frontman has been hawking four-on-the-floor country-rock since he came up with Emmylou, and as for the two AIDS songs, where's he been? Except the music has a lightness unmatched on the reissued Life Is Messy and Diamonds and Dirt, or the long-gone Ain't Living Long Like This either. And though there've been hundreds of quasi-autobios like "Telephone Road," their wizardry is in the details: "Skiing in a bar ditch behind a moped/Thirteen stitches on the corner of a sardine can." And coming from a place where once he believed "California gay boys deserve just what they get," AIDS is news to him. The one about his hardworking daddy beating on his long-suffering mama, on the other hand, he's been living with for 50 years. A-