Steve Earle

New West Records, 2019

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Steve Earle has seemingly done just about everything that can be done in his lengthy and esteemed career. Guy comes a decade after his highly praised tribute album Townes, named after Townes Van Zandt, one of Earle's mentors. His other mentor, Guy Clark, is the subject here, as Earle and company deliver 16 tracks of tunes in homage to Earle's late friend and constant source of inspiration.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

“Dublin Blues” starts the album out with warm guitar and aching pedal steel, with Earle's gruff yet comforting vocals guiding us through a bluesy, folky, country gem. “L.A. Freeway” follows with a calm, emotive atmosphere where his singing gets close to pretty with soothing Americana, while “Texas 1947” gets a bit more rugged with a mix talking and singing. “Desperados Waiting For A Train” then recruits strings and sparse instrumentation and builds into a cathartic, breezy melodic highpoint.

The middle of the album brings the upbeat and shuffling “Rita Ballou,” a danceable, honky tonk frisky tune, the dense storytelling “The Randall Knife,” and the rustic balladry of “Anyhow I Love You,” where gorgeous female backing vocals really complement the track.

Late album highlights include the foot-stomping fun of “Sis Draper,” and the aching, heartbreaking “She Ain't Going Nowhere.” “Old Friends” closes out the listen with other Clark enthusiasts like Rodney Crowell, Jerry Jeff Walker, Terry Allen and Emmylou Harris lending their talents for the pensive, moving exit.

The bulk of tunes here are from Clark's first two albums. Earle generally stays true to the original form, with minor tweaks here and there, with his most recent version of The Dukes providing dynamic interplay that weaves well with Earle's inimitable rasp. At 64 years old, Earle shows no signs of slowing down. His nineteenth album is still creatively stunning and his arrangements are still touching and smoldering in timelessness.

Rating: A-

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