Singer-songwriter Mike Crowder has always been able to find a musical kinship between the twangy rhythms of modern Americana and the dense tones of classic indie rock – not to mention the fascinating way he incorporates some Tom Petty-esque heartland rock tones into his shape-shifting sound. Acoustic arrangements lope alongside sizzling electric guitar riffs and melodies that stretch out for a handful of miles. This effortless blending of genres is given complete realization on his latest album, “My Permanent Record,” an 11-track collection which finds Crowder tackling familial connections, ache and the joy of common, everyday moments.
Opening with “See You Later Man,” a song that fuses shivering steel guitar lines and shuffling percussion, the record feels as though it’s immediately embraced by the spirits of Gram Parsons and Guy Clark. Other tracks like “Driving into Town” and “Company Car” conjures images of Willie Nelson fronting Calexico. But he’s not bound by any specific approach, opting instead for a wide array of techniques which allow his creativity to roam and evolve with each passing minute. Found on the back half of the album, “See Rock City” and “That Day at the Lake,” for example, offer rockier terrain than we’re accustomed to, with Crowder bounding through some blues-rock territory.
“My Permanent Record” works both as an exploration of individual moments and as a cohesive whole, giving us time to admire the smallest details before seeing how they add up to some something quite remarkable. Fully formed and alive, these songs invite close inspection and appreciation, offering beautifully wrought glimpses into specific geographies, emotional volatilities and family dynamics. And while this is all well-worn lyrical terrain, Crowder is able to inject extensive personal experience and an expressive awareness into his narratives which causes them to feel unique and built wholly of his own complex background.
Reminiscent of Buddy and Julie Miller’s more recent work, album closer “Trusted” concludes our time with Crowder. Filled with wistful strings, acoustic guitar and drums that seem to flit around the edges of your periphery, it leaves a lasting impression. And with the song ending with the line “there’s no going back this time,” we’re left wondering about the consequences of everything we’ve just heard and how it figures into both Crowder’s life and our own. Some things can’t be undone, and some things we have to live with – and across “My Permanent Record,” he skillfully constructs a place where communal experiences and stories are passed down, becoming just another link in our collective histories.