Steve Earle – Just An American Boy

A live double-CD. Yes, nothing says timeless like a live album recorded in the midst of an artist’s political phase.

I recommended Steve Earle to my dad and I just have to hope he doesn’t listen to this album or the studio albums that pincer it. He might think I was trying to pull a fast one and trick him into listening to hippie-dippie anti-war rock, and that wouldn’t be good grapes at gall! Acoustic guitar, if you think I play hard, well you could’ve belonged to Steve Earle!

See, this album couldn’t be any more possibly dated than it is. It’s heavy on political songs, particularly from “Jerusalem” and its filled with banter about how to deal with the problems facing America. The War was on, and the country’s musicians were dealing in their own all-too imicable way. The performance is quite good, except when he plays the old audience-placaters – and he doesn’t play many of them – on which he sounds exceedingly bored. When is understandable considering he’s been playing “Copperhead Road” since his father was in diapers, and “Guitar Town” even longer, but dude, you’re recording this for a live album! He must have meant in intentionally.

So the material. Aside from the political half of “Jerusalem” (generally pretty good aside from the regrettable “Conspiracy Theory,” there’s two bluegrass songs, both anti-death penalty songs, right next to one another so we can clearly hear which is better, “Hometown Blues,” a couple album tracks from “I Feel Alright” (the album I’d like to hear represented live most of all), a 10:52 rambling “Christmas in Washington” and the closer is a cover of “Peace, Love, and Understanding.” It’s surprisingly sombre and quiet for a Steve Earle show, and while well-performed I’m, I suppose, rather happy that I wasn’t there, because I would have expected a bit more.

But hey, bygones are bygones, and I have some questions for Steve Earle based on his anti-Republican sentiments on this album:

1. From stage banter Steve clearly voices that he opposes the death penalty because of spiritual damage to this spirit, and describes Ilinois’ former-governor Ryan as a hero. Why does Steve hate Israel?

2. Steve sings a song praising unions, and tells a story praising the unions of Pennsylvania for ensuring basic safety rights for miners. Why does Steve hate capitalism?

3. Steve states that it’s “never unpatriotic to question the fucking government in a democracy.” Why doesn’t Steve just convert to Islam already?

4. Steve plays a Townes Van Zandt song and sounds like he misses him. Why is Steve ignoring Ronald Reagan?

5. “John Walker’s Blues” is a stirring song sympathetic to a teenager who confessed to terrorism and attempted murder. Why does Steve hate football?

6. The last song on the album is a non-live song by his son, Justin Earle, called “Time You Waste” that’s touching and nice. Does he hate America too?

7. Steve describes himself as “being watched.” Why does Steve have to sound so embarrassingly typical?



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