Rodney Crowell's long wait for mainstream country stardom must have been difficult. For years he watched others find success with his songs and produced hits for his wife, Rosanne Cash, while his own efforts were appreciated by such a loyal few that, after a 12-year solo career, the Academy of Country Music recently named him "best new male country singer."
But all that waiting works to Crowell's advantage now, giving him one of the richest catalogues in country music to draw from. Nearly every selection in his 24-song show at the Coach House on Sunday was as good as the four No. 1 singles from last year's "Diamonds and Dirt," for which most new fans know him.
Crowell ranged from such fragile ballads as "After All This Time" to the decidedly sinful "I Know You're Married." Though he has a knack for a clever turn of a phrase, his greatest strength is the honest resonance of life that rings through his songs, capturing moments both ridiculous and painful in their humanity.
His emotions came through most when his four musicians left him alone to perform a nakedly beautiful new song about his father's death, which occurred just three weeks before this Father's Day show.
Speaking of the father-son reconciliations that can come later in life, and of further opportunities beyond, Crowell wasn't the only one to get a tear in his eye as he sang:
Far beyond this world we see,
there's a place for you and me,
and I don't have to live in dread,
over things I wish I'd said.