Editors’ NotesThe Outsider might be Rodney Crowell’s most musically simplistic album, but it’s also his most lyrically ambitious. Bob Dylan is a shadow hanging over this record, and his influence seems to have become a preoccupation for Crowell in middle age. On “Beautiful Despair” he sings: “Beautiful despair is hearing Dylan when you're drunk at 3 a.m./Knowing that the chances are no matter what you'll never write like him/Oh brother.” Other songs address what Crowell sees as the deteriorating state of the world. “The Obscenity Prayer” is an acidic satire of American materialism, while “Don’t Get Me Started” deals with everything from the national debt to overseas wars and is by far the most overtly political statement Crowell has ever put on record. The Dylan influence is made more explicit on a cover of “Shelter from the Storm,” sung with Crowell’s longtime benefactor Emmylou Harris. For all of Crowell’s lyrical ambitions, The Outsider fares best when he matches straightforward lyrics to straightforward riffs, as on “Say You Love Me,” a hopped-up merger of Byrds melody and amplified grit.