Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

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Steve Earle: Lonely Are the Free
Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Perhaps because there is already so much Steve Earle in the world -- this is his 14th studio album by my account -- there is very little frisson of delight or surprise coming from this album.

Little Emperor would seem to be addressed to George W Bush ("no pomp and circumstance, no more shock and awe, you're just a little emperor that's all") but seems belated -- although no one questions Earle was outspoken during that particular regime -- and the fiddle-driven shanty-like Gulf of Mexico will play well in Irish bars, especially if Shane MacGowan gets up to share in Earle's Pogue-like hoarse vocal. But it doesn't resonate here.

This City is another tribute to New Orleans with a horn section, but his slow and sad delivery hardly gives cause for the optimism the lyric suggests. It is also a leaden note to end the album on.

And throughout Earle goes through folk-sourced material (Molly-O, I Am A Wanderer), his worn-down-but-believing-man observations (God is God), acoustic singer/songwriter soul baring (the rather lovely Every Part of Me), a dreary duet with Allison Moorer on Heaven or Hell which has an unworthy lyrics . . .

Meet Me in the Alleyway is interesting -- grounded in Tom Waits of the early Eighties (Swordfishtrombones to Rain Dogs) with a New Orleans funky skew -- and Lonely Are the Free is a moving acoustic ballad which steers a course between the Biblical and the political.

So not a great Steve Earle album, just another one.

Interested in Steve Earle? Then you really need this one.

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Mike Rudge - Jun 11, 2011

I think that, without even hearing the album, I am likely to come to the same conclusion. His albums have been very samey for a long time.

Interestingly though I have a few friends who are new to Steve and who wax lyrical about the new stuff - so I wonder whether us old timers (in terms of knowing and appreciating Mr Earle) have just had our fill and dont hear the quality as many of the albums are so similar.

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