Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Interesting album title for a left-wing country singer who has endured drug addiction, the slammer and seven marriages.  I was starting to think that Steve Earle might just be a durable as Keith Richards!

I'm a huge Steve Earle fan (he was one of my favorite artists of the '00s), and I was excited to get an advance copy of his new album, I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive, which is a reference to a Hank Williams lyric (and also the title of Steve's upcoming novel, about Hank's doctor, who is haunted by Hank's ghost). I did not get the advance from the label by the way, and I have also pre-ordered the album. I am happy to pay for a Steve Earle album.  Steve's albums always have cool artwork, which is part of the whole package.  Anyway, you know me: I like to have the "official" version.

This album is produced by T-Bone Burnett (or as I sometimes call him, "Him Again!"), and features Steve reunited with his band The Dukes, and also features his wife Allison Moorer. That's a lot of stuff going on, but everyone works well together.  Not all of the songs are "new," per se: "This City" is from the HBO show Treme (which features Steve as an actor), and "God Is God" and "I Am A Wanderer" are songs that Steve wrote for Joan Baez's 2008 album Day After Tomorrow, which he produced.

So those are the details: the album is a really rootsy affair. I always figured if Steve and the Dukes got together again, it would be a rocking affair... maybe next time.  I don't mean to say that I don't like the album, though, I do.  I love it, it's one of my favorites of the year. It sounds like The Dukes went back in time a few decades... which is what I guess you hire T-Bone for. (By the way, I'm not putting him down, he's one of my favorite producers!)

I love the opening track, "Waitin' On The Sky," if I didn't know Steve wrote it, I would have thought it was an obscure traditional piece.  It's that timeless.  Both of the Baez songs are great - I prefer Steve's versions (disclaimer: although I love Joan's politics, and I think she seems like a really cool lady, I've never enjoyed her music).  I think Steve was really inspired when he had the opportunity to write for such a legend (although I think it's funny that they recorded the album in Nashville, it's not exactly where you'd think they'd be welcomed!).  "Heaven Or Hell" is also great - it's a duet with Allison Moorer.  I don't ever really get into the personal lives of artists, but I'll just say that I think this relationship will last.  I've seen them perform on stage, they have such a chemistry when they sing together, you can see the love and respect.  You can hear it on the record.

I've said it before - Steve Earle seems to be more "relevant" and important with each passing year.  He has an incredible catalog of music to live up to, and he pretty much always comes through (I didn't love his last album, Townes, but I would recommend all of his other albums). I'm looking forward to seeing Steve's tour, which will feature The Dukes with Allison on keyboards.  If you have a chance to catch this tour, do so.

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