Steve Earle – El Corazon

Well, Steve’s peak only lasted as long as it takes to get about ten seconds into this album, where he starts talking about the Democrats and Republicans and Clinton, instantly dating himself, and not in an insightful or amusing manner either. So that’s great. Then, when he somewhat redeems himself with a call for Woody Guthrie to return, he ruins it by also calling for Malcolm X to return. Also the song is a bland acoustic song, not interesting musically at all.

Then the next song is a bluesy storytelling one about some sort of civil unrest. Decent, but overlong and not memorable enough to rise above being backgroundy and decent. So so far you’re thinking that Steve had better pick it up. You’re probably pretty confident that he will, because come on, it’s Early Steve. Then the album really starts sucking.

Next is the painfully cheerful “If You Fall” (as in in love), which tightly winds cliches around meh music. Check out this bon mot: “You throw your heart down like a glove / Push comes to shove / You end up lonely and blue / When she’s away from you / If you fall in love” Yep, that’s about the tenor of this song. Oh dear! Then there’s a silly, children’s-show banjo thing, again not that memorable aside from silliness. Not that there’s much wrong silliness per se, but from a serious musical artist it’d better be at least mildly amusing, not pathetically bereft of attempted pathos.

Describing every song in any sort of detail isn’t necessary, I don’t think, to show that I don’t think much of this album. It sounds like Steve’s out of ideas. He’s derivative of himself: “Somewhere Out There” musically rips off “I Feel Alright,” but is a lame love song, and the best song, “Fort Worth Blues” sounds very similar to “Goodbye” from a couple of years ago, and the opening of “NYC” is the opening of “Someday”, not that that’s the worst part of that sad, sad song. Having lost his sadness and achievement the album founders without any tone or base, and the songwriting just isn’t there. In flopping around the songs, when they’re not being silly or cheerful boring songs, veer into politics clumsily or make attempts to sound modern that of course result in sounding incredibly dated fifteen years later. And again, this is in the context of songs that aren’t particularly strong otherwise. If “I Feel Alright” and this album were combined and I had to choose the twelve best songs I would choose the entirety of that album and none of this one. That’s a reflection of how great those songs were, but this album is seriously skippable.

Which you probably could’ve guessed from the title. I must say that I was not optimistic when I read “El Corazon.” Mexico is mostly not bullfighting, okay? And neither is Spain. And yes, I know it just means “The Fighter.” Still a bad sign. Steve was not (and still isn’t) washed up, but this album, fifteen years ago, is an album of an old artist trying to stay current who just doesn’t have it anymore.

Speaking of politics, I’m horribly miserable this morning because I’ve spent my whole day so far sitting in front of my heater (it’s too cold in this apartment) reading a book about the history of unions and one called “The Jewish Messiah” and becoming increasingly misogynistic and anti-semitic, respectively. So yeah, spose I’ll get back to that.

3 / 10


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