Steve Earle – Washington Square Serenade

So dude’s pretty old and he does what had been coming for a long time and he leaves Nashville for New York and he loves it there a little so much, so much so that he basically writes an album about it. I’m all hopped up on the excitement of being about to listen to someone else for the first time in over a month, but this album has far too much picking at notes quietly and not nearly enough strumming and hooks, and this on top of far too many drum loops and such.

So he’s farther than ever from the stuff that I love, and this coming from someone who loves New York, but so many songs are written about it that you have to do more than observe that life goes on even though it’s big. The thematic heart of the album is tracks four and five, “City of Immigrants,” the best of the New York songs, with some genuinely inspired lyrics about the city (but also some silly fluting), and “Sparkle and Shine” a ridiculously cute love song that’s a bit creepy coming out of a 50-year-old man but alright, hey, Steve Earle probably gets girls pretty enough to write songs over. The other real highlights are Tom Waits cover “Way Down in the Hole,” to which Steve adds an above-average rock-jazz lilt and some hokey backing vocals, and the undeniably cool “Oxycontin Blues,” which succeeds in spite of being a bit thin.

But yeah, the least inspired original album since “El Corazon.” There’s too much bland filler and eyeroll material. “Sparkle and Shine” though, why I love me some “Sparkle and Shine.”

5/10

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