Life Is Messy

Life Is Messy

The chorus of “Life Is Messy”—the title song of Rodney Crowell’s 1992 album—is perhaps the most blatant expression of desperation and confusion he's written: “Life is messy/It’s trying to depress me/They can kick you in the nuts/They can hit you where it hurts/Don’t get down on your knees.” Later in the song, Crowell sings about how he feels like a young Elvis Presley for “the way they put you in a cage and they push you out on stage.” Ironically, the music on this album is some of brightest and most focused of Crowell’s career. There's barely a trace of the twangy country that made him a superstar in the late '80s; it's replaced by the booming roots rock of Don Henley and Steve Winwood, both of whom make cameos on the album. Though it's musically friendly, Life Is Messy gets its soul from the despair running through it. “Maybe Next Time” and “Alone but Not Alone” are painfully confessional songs, but the best—and the most personal—is “I Hardly Know How to Be Myself,” a declaration of guilt cowritten by Rosanne Cash, from whom Crowell would soon divorce.

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