When you think of Rodney Crowell, what's the first thing that comes to mind? Some might associate the name with an amazing string of #1 country hits in the late 80's. Others may remember Crowell for the time he was married to Rosanne Cash. Or maybe as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter. What nobody seems to know is what Rodney Crowell is going to do next, and this is evident with the project "Kin, Songs By Mary Karr & Rodney Crowell".

I think that "Kin" can be best described as a concept album. The entire 10-song compilation was written by Crowell and best-selling author and poet Mary Karr. Rodney plays guitar on all, and sings on four of the songs. The rest of them are sung by an amazing cast of singers. Vince Gill (Just Pleasing You), Norah Jones (If The Law Don't Want You), Kris Kristofferson (My Father's Advice), Rosanne Cash (Sister Oh Sister), Emmylou Harris (Long Time Girl Gone By), Lucinda Williams (God I'm Missing You) and Lee Ann Womack (Momma's On A Roll) are all featured. And each adds their own color and personality to the project, but "Kin" is very nicely held together by the commonality of the songwriters.

This is a folk album, created mostly by country artists. Don't plan to work up a sweat dancing to any of these songs, and aside from the Rodney Crowell-sung "I'm A Mess", don't expect to hear any songs on "Kin" on mainstream radio. The CD lacks the polished, pop feel to fit in with what is being played today. But it's the kind of album that can grab the attention of die-hard fans of the artists featured, music critics, and those who give out Grammy Awards.

On the surface, it wouldn't seem like Rodney Crowell and Mary Karr have any business writing songs together, or collaborating at all. Just about the only thing they have in common is their east Texas roots. But something clicks with this collection of songs. Crowell has spent the past 20+ years thinking outside the box, and it sounds to me like he brought out the same spirit in all of the artists featured on "Kin". Listen to this CD and appreciate the talent, the songwriting, and the raw emotion evoked from each singer, each player, with each song.