Steve Earle | I'll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

New West Records (2011)
By NICK A. ZAINO III  |  April 27, 2011
3.0 3.0 Stars

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Here is as fine a display of what Steve Earle has to offer as a songwriter and musician as anything he's produced. His first novel comes out in May, and he'll act in the upcoming season of Treme, but he's at his most timeless and direct when he picks up his guitar. He's topical but, in the best folk tradition, always has an eye for history. "Gulf of Mexico" is especially current given the one-year anniversary of the BP spill, but Earle takes it back three generations, ending with a roughneck watching "the guts of hell" spilling out into the Gulf. "Little Emperor" makes obvious references to George W. Bush but never mentions him by name. And Bush is hardly the first to fit the description. Earle's concerns are elemental stuff — sin and justice, retribution and redemption. He writes beautiful songs of devotion, to a higher power on "God Is God" and to his earthly love on "Every Part of Me." The steel strings and mandolins ring out with a mix of flavors, from Cajun to Celtic, the way the best Americana should. And T Bone Burnett's trademark production has the rhythm section thumping as if you were listening to the whole thing from a booth at your favorite pub. Which suits Earle fine.
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