In semi-separate phone interviews (Crowell, 62, did his alone; Harris, 65, did hers sitting next to Crowell, and occasionally consulting him about half-remembered details, in the Nashville airport), the two old friends talked about their new album and traced the origins of their friendship from its earliest days to today.
In 1974, after the death of her mentor Gram Parsons, Harris, a young single mother, was living with her parents in the Maryland suburbs. Crowell was a struggling songwriter.
Emmylou Harris: I was working the [D.C.] clubs: the Childe Harold, Mr. Henry or Oh Henry’s, whatever, the Assembly, the Red Fox Inn. I was pretty much doing six nights a week. I heard [Rodney] up in Toronto when I was working on material with Brian Ahern. I heard his demo and got very excited, and [Ahern] arranged for us to meet.
Rodney Crowell: She was playing at the Childe Harold, this old folk club. I went to see her, and then we stayed up all night, sitting on the floor. We started a conversation about songs and music, the Louvin Brothers, Townes Van Zandt, Guy Clark. And that very conversation that night is a conversation that we’ve sustained over the years, and was really what led to [this album], truthfully.
Harris’s major label debut, “Pieces of the Sky,” was released in early 1975; “Bluebird Wine,” written by Crowell, was the lead track. Crowell and Harris re-recorded the song, with new lyrics by Crowell, for “Old Yellow Moon.”
Crowell: When [“Pieces of the Sky”] came out, I was in California with her. We were in a boutique in Westwood and “Bluebird Wine” came on the radio, and we were like those kids in that Tom Hanks movie “That Thing You Do,” we were jumping up and down. We go up to the cashier, and [Emmylou said], “Listen, do you hear that? That’s me singing.” And I said, “Yeah, and that’s my song.” And the cashier sort of lazily said, “Oh, yeah, sure.” We were like, “No, really. It is!”
Harris: Rodney had never recorded it himself, and it seemed like [a new version would] give everyone a chance to hear what I heard when I heard Rodney sing that song. And I suppose there was a certain sentimentality for me, because it is kind of how we got together.