Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Random Review #118 Steve Earle - The Hard Way

C11S2CD6 Anybody that thinks The Dirt the story of Motley Crue is the Rock and Roll bible that takes the world of excesses to the maximum needs to read Hardcore Troubadour, The Life and Near Death of Steve Earle the biography by Lauren St John, 7 or 8 marriages (twice to the same woman) drink, heroin addiction, jail for drug possession and if you believe the Steve Earle by the C.I.A for his left wing views. Beat that Motley Crue!

Earle started as a country artist, moved into the world of country rock before hitting full on rock mode (just before he was jailed)  sober and clean (and happily married at last) he now produces intelligent, music that falls into the Americana genre very nicely, although of late he has experimented with loops and drum machines. He has also turned his hand to acting, playing reformed drug addict and counsellor Waylon in the HBO series The Wire, and a published author, his second fictional book has just be published, he seems to be in a great place and using his addiction tendencies to channel great quality work irrespective of the media.

This album sees Earle moving from country to country rock and although using heavily he hadn’t quite fallen into the abyss that would land him in jail. It’s a strong album with Earle in confident mood, his next release would be Copperhead Road which would bring him to the attention to the masses and this feels like Earle trying the country rock jacket on for size before he bought it. The Other Kind, Country Girl are Earle at his finest rocking out, When The People Find Out is powered along by a gospel choir and over the entire album has very few dips. I can’t review this album without mentioning the track Billy Austin, Earle has been for many years a campaigner for the abolishment of the Death Penalty in the US and can often be seen protesting at the gates of the jails on execution nights. Billy Austin is written in the first party from the point of view of a death row prisoner, it isn’t sentimental it is a very honest account but it makes you realise the futility of death in any format. It is a really powerful piece of writing that makes me sit upright and listen every time I hear it. Whatever your views you can’t not be moved by this song incredible.

Earle continues to tour and produce top class music whether on his own, with the Dukes his backing band, his Wife (Alison Moorer) or even sometimes with his son Justin Townes Earle  (both successful artist in their own right) and if you haven’t seen he’s worth a trip out.

Mark 7/10

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