Steve Earle and the Dukes: Terraplane (New West/Warners)

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Steve Earle: The Tennessee Kid
Steve Earle and the Dukes: Terraplane (New West/Warners)

The only surprising thing about Earle making a blues album – given he's done rock, country, folk and bluegrass – is that it took him so long.

As a Texan where the tough electric players and Lightnin' Hopkins' backporch acoustic style came from, blues was certainly in his blood.

And these songs – many written while back-packing around Europe by himself, presumably after the break-up of his most recent marriage – are within the broad landscape of blues.

You could imagine ol' Lightnin' doing You're the Best Lover That I Ever Had (see clip below), and the brooding, raw electric Tennessee Kid here conjures up Dylan, Beat poets and the spook-spirit of Robert Johnson – who wrote Terraplane Blues – as Earle sings of one who makes a pact with the Devil.

It, the gritty King of the Blues and the bleak break-up song Better Off Alone, are the best among the 11 here.

But Baby Baby Baby, Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now and The Usual Time are little more than genre pieces riding familiar blues grooves.

So, a patchy collection exploring different styles of blues which will nonetheless appeal to Earle loyalists, but leave casual listeners indifferent.

For reviews of many earlier Steve Earle albums and interviews see here

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