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Country - Released November 18, 1993 | Columbia - Legacy

Distinctions The Qobuz Ideal Discography
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Country - Released March 31, 2017 | New West Records

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Country - Released November 2, 2018 | New West Records

In the 21st century, the sizable majority of Christmas albums fall into one of two categories -- those made by artists with a sentimental streak who love celebrating the musical and social traditions, and the cynics who enjoy putting a snarky smirk on songs of the season. Rodney Crowell clearly lines up in the second camp judging from 2018's Christmas Everywhere, which in its first song includes the line "The season starts in August now, we'll see you at the mall," and in the second finds him crooning "Mama wants a kitchen sink, Daddy wants a stiffer drink, Grandma wants us to cut the crap, Grandpa wants a nice long nap." But if Christmas Everywhere is short on traditional reverence, Crowell sure seems to be having a lot of fun sending up the holidays. He digs into a smoky R&B groove on "When the Fat Guy Tries the Chimney on for Size," dips a hint of rockabilly into "Very Merry Christmas," and generates a classic country shuffle on "Christmas Makes Me Sad." Christmas Everywhere is also the rare Christmas album devoted entirely to original material written for this disc, and if this material doesn't rank with the best songs of Crowell's career, he's always been a gifted craftsman and his level of quality control here is impressive. Even the most playful numbers generate honest laughs and find Crowell singing with sincere enthusiasm, while he and his studio band pick up a storm. And the hardscrabble Yuletide tales of "Christmas in Vidor," the lonely heartsick nights of "Come Christmas," and the sad nostalgia of "Christmas in New York" are on hand to show Crowell can write seriously (if unconventionally) with the holiday in mind and make it stick. Christmas Everywhere won't replace that Mantovani Christmas album your grandfather has been playing for decades at family gatherings, but if you're tired of putting Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas from the Family" on a loop for that party with your friends, Crowell and his pals will fill the bill with style. ~ Mark Deming
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Country - Released January 1, 2006 | Sugar Hill Records

At least impressionistically, this is a soundtrack to a documentary about the life of Rodney Crowell, who grew up in East Houston (the same neighborhood as the Ghetto Boys, but 25 years earlier), a rough and rumble neighborhood lying in the shadows of downtown Houston. It also happens to be the finest record Crowell has recorded since Diamonds & Dirt, and it's better than that one by a mile. After being tossed off by the major labels, it took a big-time indie like Sugar Hill -- a label founded to showcase bluegrass artists (but also home to many fine singer/songwriters including Crowell's running mate and inspiration Guy Clark) -- to release The Houston Kid. The album comes off as a song cycle; first, in "Telephone Road," the atmosphere is painted onto a backdrop. Showcasing the dark underbelly's finest sights, smells, sounds, and tastes, it's a country shuffle that moves ahead straightforwardly offering the stage for the creation of a rounder. On "The Rock of My Soul," Crowell tells all about the boy growing up in such circumstances. Fact and fiction are interwoven in a moving narrative that has plenty of twang and punch. Steel guitars and acoustic Fenders carry the melody along until the story reaches its nadir. "Why Don't We Talk About It" is Crowell's "accept me as I am because this is the real me" narrative. The band sounds like Rockpile playing country music. Truly, the backing vocals and the mix could be pure Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe. Crowell has always hidden his brashness under a sheen of Nashville style, which is why his songs always sounded truer coming out of other people's mouths. But that's not the case here. It feels raw and immediate, full of something he's never revealed before. "I Wish It Would Rain" is a folk/country song so down and out that it could have been written by deceased writers Townes Van Zandt or Blaze Foley (both Texans and both friends of Crowell). It's a confessional. There is no braggadocio, no posturing. It's a song of regret but not remorse. The guitars are spare, just enough of a skeleton to hang the lyric on, and as he spills his tale of woe, the listener becomes as haunted as the protagonist is hunted. The craziest moment is Crowell's rewiring of Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." With an electric country-blues shuffle (à la Merle Haggard), Crowell tells the story of how he first heard the song, and then Cash himself comes in on a completely rewritten narrative and chorus! Cash reportedly told Crowell he had a lot of nerve to rewrite his classic song, to which Crowell brazenly replied, "Yes sir." Though the record closes two songs later, "Banks of the Old Bandera" is where it could have -- and maybe should have -- the first song Crowell ever wrote. Author Tom Robbins told him he should write a bunch more songs and tour them in art galleries! Thank God he didn't. The Houston Kid offers listeners Rodney Crowell the performer in a way they've never heard before; the songwriter who has been been missing in Nashville for quite some time is back. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released July 13, 2018 | RC1 Records

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Country - Released August 29, 2003 | DMZ - Epic

Fate's Right Hand is one of those albums that couldn't have been written or recorded at any other time in Rodney Crowell's career. Two years after his monumentally acclaimed The Houston Kid, Crowell has laid out his autobiography in sight and sound. His track record of hits -- written for himself as well as for other artists -- could have just gone on untarnished. But Fate's Right Hand is the flip side of The Houston Kid. Whereas the latter album is about the past, the former is about the present, not only in the artist's life, but in the lives of those around him, and in the question of life itself: why is it worth living and how can suffering be alleviated? While many will think this is blasphemy, Fate's Right Hand is the finest record Crowell has issued since Diamonds & Dirt and may turn out to be the finest of his entire career -- and that's saying a lot. Crowell and Pete Coleman produced this outing and enlisted the help of friends old and new: Steuart Smith, Pat Buchanan, Michael Rhodes, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Richard Bennett, Béla Fleck, Carl Jackson, Marcia Ramirez, Charlie McCoy, Kim Richey, and Will Kimbrough, to name a few. Crowell wrote the entire record himself; he digs deep for the ugly stuff in order to uncover what shines beneath it. The opener, "Still Learning How to Fly", is a song about living in the moment because the moment is all you have.Crowell claims he wrote it based on conversations he had with a friend dying of terminal cancer; about what comes in the afterlife. With dobros, electric guitars, and acoustic six-strings wrapping around each other in a big, airy mix painted with a Hammond B-3, it is one of Crowell's transcendent moments. Remember Diamonds & Dirt? Yeah -- like that. The title track ushers itself in around some warm, rounded bass tones, an organ, and maracas, as Crowell begins a series of seemingly unrelated non sequiturs. It's a pissed-off song that is as close to punk as Crowell will ever write. The notion of the transcendent is again present as it drenches Fleck's banjo riff in "Earthbound." Crowell makes the argument for living day-to-day in a world full of death and cynicism: where surrender is not an option until its time. All of this points to the most naked song Crowell has ever written: "Time to Go Inward," with both spoken word and sung refrains over fingerpicked acoustic guitars and electric dobros. It's a folk song about seeing; a country song about acceptance; a human song about the fear of what you might find when you look so deeply inside yourself. "The Man in Me" is about the negativity found there. It's a country-rock song that looks deeply into the mirror, doesn't like what it sees, and can't escape. Crowell penned "Preaching to the Choir" as an answer to "Time to Go Inward," but it's another mirror he sees: it's a bluesy rock tune touched by country gospel and bluegrass, and it smokes. There are a couple of other thoughtful moments here, cuts where Crowell is trying to make sense rather than preach -- which is what this album is all about: making sense of things rather than preaching about them. But it all comes to a head in "This Too Will Pass," a country song with a rockabilly shuffle that expresses the wisdom of those who believe and practice what Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous teach (no claim is made or intended for Crowell being part of either): impermanence, suffering, and joy -- and everything in between -- are merely the stages of cyclical existence. Happiness is possible. There is a way out, but you have it discover it for yourself. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released January 1, 2001 | Columbia

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Country - Released November 2, 1993 | Columbia Nashville

The music on Greatest Hits is taken from an era when Rodney Crowell actually had hits, including the number ones "I Couldn't Leave You if I Tried," "She's Crazy for Leavin'," and "After All This Time." Those songs and several more are collected on Greatest Hits, making it a fine introduction to the singer/songwriter. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine
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Country - Released March 31, 2017 | New West Records

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Country - Released November 16, 2004 | Columbia - Legacy

Rodney Crowell has enjoyed a long career as both a songwriter and as a recording artist/performer. He's long outlasted most of the generation he came to Nash Vegas with and has continued to be relevant into the 21st century. There are bona fide country classics in his album catalog including 1978's Ain't Livin' Long Like This, his self-titled 1981 album, Diamonds & Dirt from 1989, and Houston Kid and Fate's Right Hand from this new century. Add to this a slew of hit singles and solid should-have-beens and it adds up to a spectacular career. Legacy attempts to document the longevity and breadth of it on the Essential Rodney Crowell. The original Rodney Crowell Collection was stellar though it only covered his early years. This set comes full circle, but with only 15 tracks it feels incomplete. For starters why re-recorded versions of "I Ain't Living Long Like This" and "'Til I Gain Control Again" were chosen over the originals are inexplicable and inferior. Why "Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight" is not here is puzzling as well. Thankfully "Shame on the Moon," and "Stars on the Water" are here. Also included are recordings of "I Couldn't Leave You if I Tried," "After All This Time," "The Last Waltz" and "Many a Long & Lonesome Highway." Also inexplicable is the inclusion of his version of "I Walk the Line." Having "Sill Learning How to Fly" and "Oh King Richard," on the same collection is a plus. The bottom line is that there isn't anything bad here, but the Essential Rodney Crowell should have warranted a double disc, or at least something as representative and comprehensive as Raven's excellent, 21- cut Small Worlds: The Crowell Collection 1978-1995. Here's hoping for either another best-of that goes further, or a box set -- Crowell's catalog and legacy deserve better than this. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released December 22, 2008 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Rodney Crowell was one of the premier songwriters of the 1980s. Although his albums were not commercially successful, the high quality of Crowell's songs did not escape the attention of the music community. This compilation collects the best moments from his early albums, and most of these songs will sound instantly familiar to people who listened to country radio in the 1980s. Many of the songs featured on this album were made into hits, including "Queen of Hearts" (Juice Newton), "Stars on the Water" (Jimmy Buffett), "I Ain't Living Long Like This" (Waylon Jennings), and "Shame on the Moon" (Bob Seger). As is often the case when songwriters sing their own material, the songs carry more emotional weight under the care of the original author. Although Rodney Crowell does not have a powerful or distinctive voice, he has a genuine warmth in his delivery and a lyrical directness that gives his songs universal appeal. The finest tracks are the relationship songs, whether it's rising above the pain of heartbreak ("Ashes By Now") or finding romance in the simple pleasures of everyday life ("An American Dream"). Given the uneven nature of his solo albums, this album is a terrific introduction to a respected songwriter. ~ Vik Iyengar
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Country - Released January 1, 2011 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

This T-Bird Americana two-fer pairs two of Rodney Crowell's forgotten albums of the mid-'90s. It's fitting, because Let the Picture Paint Itself (1994) and Jewel of the South (1995) sum up the singer/songwrtiter's recording period between his hit album Diamonds & Dirt (1989) and his re-emergence with the Houston Kid in 2001. The two albums represented here are the two records Crowell cut with producer Tony Brown at MCA after leaving Columbia. They were to be his last for six long years. Neither charted nor sold well, but that's neither here nor there when it comes to hearing them in the present day. Both are strong offerings. Let the Picture Paint Itself hosted three singles in the rocking title track, the genuine, swinging honky tonk of "Big Heart," and the ballad "I Don't Fall in Love So Easy." The album also featured two excellent co-writes with fellow Houstonian Guy Clark in the beautiful, acoustic, singer/songwriter fare of "Stuff That Works," and the popping two-step of "The Rose of Memphis." The talents of Trisha Yearwood and Patty Loveless also graced the album as backing vocalists. Jewel of the South boasted only one single, in "Please Remember Me," co-written with Will Jennings; it never even charted. The album is loaded with guests including Raul Malo, Béla Fleck, Vince Gill, Kim Richey, Vince Gill, Charlie McCoy, and Billy Joe Walker. The material is cagey, in that some of it hearkens back to Crowell's earliest days (the rocker "Love to Burn," co-written with Hank DeVito, and Crowell's own "The Ladder of Love," which could have been recorded by Dave Edmunds), and pretty much disdains the neo-traditionalism that became contemporary country during those years -- covering Roy Orbison's "Que' Es Amor (What Is Love)?" wasn't the most commercial thing to do -- and even points the compass forward with the reflective title track and "Thinking About Leaving." Taken together, these album are far better than they were originally thought to be, and they were way ahead of their time. They also cast a new light on an important part of Crowell's career -- his discontent with Nashville -- and they paint a portrait of a restless and creative veteran artist in the process of reimagining himself by going back to his roots. This two-fer is well worth the time and effort of seeking it out. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released March 17, 2017 | New West Records

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Country - Released October 19, 2018 | New West Records

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Country - Released January 17, 2006 | Rhino

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Country - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

Rodney Crowell's debut was a near perfect country-rock record: great writing and a few venerable covers all performed with soul and style. But while Ain't Living Long Like This leaned more toward the country side of things, his follow-up, But What Will the Neighbors Think, which was co-produced with Craig Leon (the Ramones, Suicide, Blondie), has a distinct pop and rock edge. This is evident right from the start, with the chunky guitar and drum intro of "Here Come the 80s," which opens the album with an almost new wave feel. When mixed with Crowell's country roots and choice of sidemen, the bulk of side one, which includes tracks such as the cynical rockers "Ain't No Money" and "It's Only Rock'n'Roll" and the minor-key pop of Keith Sykes' "Oh What a Feeling," blurs the lines between Nashville and L.A.. Side two, which kicks off with the Top 40 pop hit "Ashes by Now," adds a bit more twang to the proceedings with Guy Clark's "Heartbroke" and Hank DeVito's "Queen of Hearts" (Crowell's version predated Juice Newton's Top Five hit by more than a year), before closing with a pair of lightweight genre exercises. Much like Rosanne Cash's Right or Wrong, which he had produced a year earlier, there are moments here that suggest the turn country music would take in the coming years. In fact, "Queen of Hearts," "Ain't No Money," and "Heartbroke" would become hits in the next couple of years for Newton, Cash, and Ricky Skaggs respectively, while Lee Ann Womack would score big with "Ashes by Now" more than 20 years later. Though it may not necessarily be what some expected from Rodney Crowell at this point, the slight change of direction seemed to help him avoid a sophomore slump. ~ Brett Hartenbach
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Country - Released September 3, 2001 | Columbia

Of the four records Rodney Crowell cut under his name before 1988's Diamonds & Dirt, three of them are still regarded as classics of the progressive country genre. The Houston native was well established as a songwriter (Emmylou Harris cut a slew of Crowell songs on her first five records), producer, and performer. Along with then-wife Rosanne Cash, he brought elements of new wave and early rock & roll into the genre, giving it a much needed kick in the rear. But as good as those albums were, Diamonds & Dirt put him on the map for good. In the 21st century, Crowell makes his living primarily as a hit songwriter, though he still records independently, cutting one critically acclaimed album after another. Co-produced by Crowell and Tony Brown, Diamonds & Dirt yielded five chart-topping singles, including "It's Such a Small World," a duet with Cash (who provided backing vocals throughout the set); a burning rockabilly version of pal Guy Clark's "She's Crazy for Leavin'"; the switchblade swagger of "Crazy Baby" (which sounds like Dave Edmunds and Nick Lowe backing Jerry Lee Lewis); and the stellar ballad "After All This Time." That said, there is something else afoot here, too. A listen to "I Know You're Married" reveals that Crowell was a real fan of the early Beatles, and, on "I Didn't Know That I Could Lose You," of Roy Orbison. The only other cover on the set is a stellar swaggering honky tonk cum pub rock version of Harlan Howard's "Above and Beyond (The Call of Love)," which could have been recorded by England's Brinsley Schwarz. The remastered Legacy version of the album also includes three previously unreleased demos from the Diamonds & Dirt sessions and a wonderfully intimate set of liner notes. For contemporary country fans, this disc is such an important part of the development of modern music that it has virtually influenced everything that's come after it, making it impossible to ignore. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released February 8, 2005 | Rhino - Warner Bros.

At the time of his debut, it seemed as if Rodney Crowell would be the one to truly fill the void left in the wake of Gram Parsons' death -- from his soulful hybrid of country, rock and pop to Emmylou Harris' backing vocals. But by the time of his second recording, he was working with Ramones producer Craig Leon on 1980's But What Will the Neighbors Think, which put a much heavier emphasis on the rock and pop aspects of his music, and less on the country. With his self-titled third album -- the first to be self-produced -- the country began to get a little slicker (as it did industry wide), while the rock & roll became a bit more straightforward. It also contains some stelar talent: Memphis soul organist Booker T. Jones, guitarists Vince Gill and Albert Lee, and Rosanne Cash on harmony vocals. The record starts on a strong note with one of Crowell's finest, the impressionistic honky tonk of "Stars on the Water," before a Keith Sykes rocker, followed by a Guy Clark ballad, sets the up-and-down pace that would carry things the rest of the way. And while alternating lighthearted rock & roll numbers with more somber tracks such as Clark's "She Ain't Going Nowhere" or his own "Victim or a Fool" isn't necessarily a bad move, here it never really allows the record to settle into a steady flow -- especially when some of the up-tempo cuts feel like filler. On the other hand, new songs like "Shame on the Moon" or the aforementioned "Stars on the Water" and "Victim or a Fool" show that Crowell is still at the top of his game. Elsewhere, he gives the beautiful "'Til I Gain Control Again," one of the many terrific tunes from his back catalog (recorded prior to this by both Emmylou Harris and Waylon Jennings), a tasteful country-pop treatment that fits nicely with the best of his new material. As was the case with his previous two records, Crowell failed to make much headway for himself in the marketplace with this record, though it did continue his streak of spawning at least one major hit for another artist -- Bob Seger's cover of "Shame on the Moon," which went to number two on the charts. ~ Brett Hartenbach
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Country - Released June 13, 2005 | Columbia

Rodney Crowell's The Outsider is a natural extension of his last two offerings: The Houston Kid and Fate's Right Hand. Where The Houston Kid was Crowell's autobiographical confessional and Fate's Right Hand was deeply philosophical and influenced by everything from Zen to the working through of anger, The Outsider digs deep into social and political consciousness. The album rocks harder than any Crowell record in the past, as evidenced by "Don't Get Me Started," which is an anti-war anthem that takes aim at the war in Iraq. Immediately following is "The Obscenity Prayer," written from the point of view of a hypocritical right-wing pleasure seeker whose positions are not only indefensible, they are, at worst, obscene. Conversely, the Zen-like advice in "Dancin' Circles Round the Sun" is a tough country rocker with killer rockabilly guitar lines by Stewart Smith and Hammond B3 grooves by John Hobbs. It is a testament to personal responsibility and awakening that exhorts and admonishes but never preaches. There is great tenderness here, as well, such as in the acoustically driven "Ignorance Is the Enemy," with its prayer-like cadence and spoken-word vocals by Emmylou Harris and John Prine. "Glasgow Girl" is as fine a country-rock love song as has been written in recent years. The album closes with "We Can't Turn Back Now," a rousing call for acceptance, forbearance, and perseverance, whose guitars and big bassline is graced by a stellar fiddle line and a beautifully delicate tin whistle winding through it all. Crowell -- still writing hits for "Hot 100" country artists to help finance and keep creative control of his recordings -- has matured into an artist who has the of hard-won experience that displays itself as poetically wrought wisdom. His work is full of humor, light, poignancy, and killer hooks. He's now written and recorded three big topic records, all of which surpass his early work. The only thing missing here now is a record on the other big topic: Love. Perhaps that's coming. Until then, The Outsider is the Rodney Crowell recording to listen to, debate with, and be inspired by. ~ Thom Jurek
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Country - Released September 16, 2003 | Epic

Fate's Right Hand is one of those albums that couldn't have been written or recorded at any other time in Rodney Crowell's career. Two years after his monumentally acclaimed The Houston Kid, Crowell has laid out his autobiography in sight and sound. His track record of hits -- written for himself as well as for other artists -- could have just gone on untarnished. But Fate's Right Hand is the flip side of The Houston Kid. Whereas the latter album is about the past, the former is about the present, not only in the artist's life, but in the lives of those around him, and in the question of life itself: why is it worth living and how can suffering be alleviated? While many will think this is blasphemy, Fate's Right Hand is the finest record Crowell has issued since Diamonds & Dirt and may turn out to be the finest of his entire career -- and that's saying a lot. Crowell and Pete Coleman produced this outing and enlisted the help of friends old and new: Steuart Smith, Pat Buchanan, Michael Rhodes, Gillian Welch, David Rawlings, Richard Bennett, Béla Fleck, Carl Jackson, Marcia Ramirez, Charlie McCoy, Kim Richey, and Will Kimbrough, to name a few. Crowell wrote the entire record himself; he digs deep for the ugly stuff in order to uncover what shines beneath it. The opener, "Still Learning How to Fly", is a song about living in the moment because the moment is all you have.Crowell claims he wrote it based on conversations he had with a friend dying of terminal cancer; about what comes in the afterlife. With dobros, electric guitars, and acoustic six-strings wrapping around each other in a big, airy mix painted with a Hammond B-3, it is one of Crowell's transcendent moments. Remember Diamonds & Dirt? Yeah -- like that. The title track ushers itself in around some warm, rounded bass tones, an organ, and maracas, as Crowell begins a series of seemingly unrelated non sequiturs. It's a pissed-off song that is as close to punk as Crowell will ever write. The notion of the transcendent is again present as it drenches Fleck's banjo riff in "Earthbound." Crowell makes the argument for living day-to-day in a world full of death and cynicism: where surrender is not an option until its time. All of this points to the most naked song Crowell has ever written: "Time to Go Inward," with both spoken word and sung refrains over fingerpicked acoustic guitars and electric dobros. It's a folk song about seeing; a country song about acceptance; a human song about the fear of what you might find when you look so deeply inside yourself. "The Man in Me" is about the negativity found there. It's a country-rock song that looks deeply into the mirror, doesn't like what it sees, and can't escape. Crowell penned "Preaching to the Choir" as an answer to "Time to Go Inward," but it's another mirror he sees: it's a bluesy rock tune touched by country gospel and bluegrass, and it smokes. There are a couple of other thoughtful moments here, cuts where Crowell is trying to make sense rather than preach -- which is what this album is all about: making sense of things rather than preaching about them. But it all comes to a head in "This Too Will Pass," a country song with a rockabilly shuffle that expresses the wisdom of those who believe and practice what Buddhism's Four Noble Truths and the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous teach (no claim is made or intended for Crowell being part of either): impermanence, suffering, and joy -- and everything in between -- are merely the stages of cyclical existence. Happiness is possible. There is a way out, but you have it discover it for yourself. ~ Thom Jurek