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Chinaberry Sidewalks by Rodney Crowell

I wanted to read this book because to me Rodney Crowell always seemed like a really interesting guy.  Turns out, so was his childhood.

He’s one of those guys that I knew several of his songs, before I ever knew who he was.

He wrote “Shame on the Moon” by Bob Seger, “Ain’t Livin’ Long Like This” by Waylon and “Leavin’ Louisiana in the Broad Daylight” by The Oak Ridge Boys.

I was reminded the other night of another Rodney written fav of mine, Lee Ann Womack’s “Ashes By Now“.

Rosanne Cash wrote “Seven Year Ache” about him, and his “Diamonds & Dirt” album produced five #1 songs in a row in the late 80’s when I was first getting into Country radio. 

Chinaberry Sidewalks is a look at his dysfunctional upbringing, but not from a whiny, “can you believe what happened to me as a kid” perspective.

I love the  L.A. Times reviewer’s description of Rodney’s parents: 

“Crowell’s mother was a dyslexic epileptic with suicidal tendencies and a taste for warm beer and Pentecostal preachers. His father was an irresponsible, hard-drinking philanderer who idolized Ol’ Hank and struggled with his failure to make a living as a musician.”

Somehow he makes his parent’s drunken brawls, with each other or neighbors, warm-hearted and funny.  It’s a guy looking back at the times, people and stories that shaped him.

And the adoration of his parents comes not in spite of the strangeness of their relationship, but because of it.

I really enjoyed it, and you might too.  Hear Rodney talk about the book, his parents, and the difference in writing songs and writing a book.


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