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Steve Earle – Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator

Recorded live in Kitchener in 1990, this live album kicks serious ass. Between the radio channel intro and a killer Stones cover gone country, it’s hit after Earle hit, a great song selection, with superb sound quality.

The Dukes were serious business, and the music here is unimpeachable, stirring as all hell. Earle himself imbues each track with as much power and meaning as he can, his voice carrying a slight rasp to it. Rock til the wheels fall off!

Steve Earle – The Hard Way

When this record saw release, Earle was so far down the spiral of drugs, it’s actually incredible he got anything done at all. But to turn out a record this damn good, this accomplished in spite of all that self-destruction would be unbelievable – except we have this record as proof!

His lyrics still hit damn hard, he still straddles the country rock line, and the music’s clear and strong. Intelligence, advocacy, blues, sensitivity, and strength despite his life choices.

Steve Earle – Copperhead Road

The Taranna Was Hot Series: Part 25/25 (Sonic Boom, $2.99)

Yes! Culmination! The Taranna Was Hot Series can now offically close. After finishing the Earle book (thanks Mike!), I wanted to do the early albums in order. Thanks for your patience in getting to this ending of the series. Enjoy!*

Here’s where Earle split himself from Nashville and doused his country in rock and roll. Hell, the Pogues, Maria McKee and Telluride are here, too. Naturally, it all worked so damn well. He’s just as gritty, just as real, just as much a dreamer as ever, singing about war vets, politics, hard times, and women.

It’s clear why this record’s a classic. It flows. Yes, it has the songwriting and brilliant playing, but it flows like a classic novel. Glory.


*This intro does not count towards my 80 words. 


Steve Earle – Exit 0

Picking up where Guitar Town left off, here’s Earle’s second record of brilliant country-rock music. There’s a depth to what he does, the lyrics so harrowing and real. Fighting his own demons on all sides (drugs, women, labels), he cranks out tune after tune of timeless, quality singer/songwriter Americana.

Recorded digitally (Earle loved it, then), this record captures the restlessness, blues, and beauty perfectly. Here is a road dog band at the top of their game. Simply gorgeous, fully recommended.

Steve Earle – Guitar Town

Earle’s debut is a classic. Unimpeachable songwriting, and that realistic feel as he adheres as faithfully as he could to the way Nashville wanted this record (yet still doing his own thing), is unavoidable.

It’s country through a real-life addiction hard times blues filter, true Americana via Bruce Springsteen and Townes Van Zandt, wide open highways across a nation feeding on its own issues like an ouroboros snake.

Today’s CMT nitwits have wet dreams about making a record this solid.

Lauren St. John – Hardcore Troubadour: The Life And Near Death Of Steve Earle

A fabulous gift from Mike. Another self-destructive massive addict, a life of ex-wives and children, record label bullshit, famous and equally self-destructive friends, and pissed-off bandmates. His my way or the highway, art on his own terms approach never goes smoothly, but it somehow gets him through because people see strength despite his incredible weaknesses.

This book exhausted me, but I appreciated the insights into his iconic records. He even seems to find redemption with an ex-cult member. Incredible read.

Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses) – The Low Highway

I collect Airmiles. I know you don’t care, but I’m gonna tell you anyway. Of course, I hate having an extra card in my wallet, trying to collect points in a system that makes it impossible to save up for anything really good (unless you’re in a tax bracket I can’t even see from where I’m sitting). However, I suffer it because every couple of months, usually with points procurred from buying gas for the car, and Drunk Review wine at the weekends, I cash in my points and get a free CD. Yes! This makes me inordinately happy and totally justifies the hassle.

This Steve Earle CD got rave reviews on peoples’ End Of 2013 Best-Of list over on Mike’s site.  I like Steve Earle’s music, though I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. The only other Earle I currently own is an Essential hits-type disc, but I did hear most of his records years ago through the Saskatoon public library, and I remember liking them then… so, I ordered this with my points just to check it out. Boy, am I ever glad I did…

The Low Highway is pure Earle Americana. Calico County is a great, bluesy tune but the verse sounds so much like a (slightly) slowed-down Wild Wild West by Escape Club, which in turn stole from Elvis Costello’s Pump It Up… look, this is a cool tune, but I can’t shake hearing the other tunes in my head. Burnin’ It Down is a pretty tune, easy to drift off meditatively listening to it…

That All You Got? brings back the bluesy boogie, with a bit of cajun spice mixed in. Love the instrumental bit in the middle. You know, every song here, so far, seems to find a groove early on and then just stick to it relentlessly. It’s not a bad thing, most bands would be lucky to have songs this strong. It’s just something I noticed. Love’s Gonna Blow My Way is a sweet little tune that jams along almost jazzily. Is that even a word, jazzily? says yes! It’s an adverb of jazzy. Cool. Good tune, anyway. I like it best here so far, maybe.

After Mardi Gras stomps along, vocals front and center. The music in the background almost seems like an afterthought, on first listen. I played it again and then I heard the tune more, all the tricky little chord changes. Put the two together and it works. Just don’t dismiss it on first go, as I almost did. It totally works if you give it another go! I promise! Pocket Full Of Rain is a jaunty tune anchored by a hammered low-end piano note. I don’t know why I can hear this being a TV show theme song, but I totally can. I like it.

Invisible is a melancholy acoustic number with deliberately twangy, rough vocals. Like the rest of the album, it just clings to the groove and carries on. This’d be a great on for a late-night drive on an empty highway. Warren Hellman’s Banjo starts out with just Earle’s vocals and banjo. The drums and fiddle come in later. Could be a sea chanty or a Celtic reel or something. Definitely near the sea, anyway, to my ear.

Down The Road Pt II is pure country, mandolin and all. Great beat, definitely a toe-tappin’ tune. The fiddle stands out to my ear, here. 21st Century Blues is an uplifting tune with not-so-uplifting lyrics. I guess the new century ain’t all Mr. Earle wants it to be. Ah well, he still holds out hope for us all. I appreciate that. And lastly is Remember Me, a slow dancer for when last call was half an hour ago and they’re putting chairs up on the tables. I really liked this track. Perfect ending to a great record.

What? A great record? After some of what I said? Yes. A great record. No one else could make this record, and we should all thank Mr. Earle and the Dukes and Duchesses for it. I think the main reason I call it great is because, for all its polish and professionalism, it still just sounds like a jam session. Loose, free, fun. Solid tunes that lock into themselves and just barrel along. Really cool. There’s something timeless here, on most of the songs. It’s gonna be just as good ten, twenty, thirty years from now as it is right now, I guarantee it.

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