Steve Earle – I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive

An original album by this now 78 year-old guy, and it’s based on a book that he wrote that I couldn’t get past the first chapter of! I’ll end sentences with whatever I want, I’m just like Churchhill. I personally defeated the not Z’s. To wit, I slept. I’m on a bus through rural Ohio right now. It’s not very exciting. Like Southern Ontario, but greener, more hilly, and more of a constant strip mall, and that’s saying something. And slightly different franchises have populated the countryside. Enjoy your strip mall, Northern America.
Steve does not do subtlety very well. Steve does very well at writing music in interesting genres – call and answer celtic, rockabilly, bluegrass, acoustic folksy bluesy things, and all filtered through his gruff old American man-isms. The lack of subtlety is made significantly more tolerable (even welcome) by its interpretation as Woody Guthrie-esque writing about modern events. Really, it’s fine to date yourself if you do it willingly, and why should the flooding of New Orleans and the Mexican oil spill not deserve a song, if the Grand Coolee Dam deserves one? Of course, the song that’s about what a jerk George W. Bush is sounds dated already, but them’s the breaks.
I’m sorry for not liking your book, Steve, but it’s a really cool title!
The problem, like with a few of Steve’s albums, is that beneath his majestic beard and stringy balding hair he only had half an album of good songs in him, and they’re lined up right at the start. Kinda like when he was a young heroin-addicted man, really. Kinda like this song-writing thing is hard or something! After the groovy (though kinda go-nowhere) opener “Waitin’ For The Sky,” aforementioned anti-Republican “Little Emperor,” excellent celtic rockers (songs with fiddles, not violins) “Gulf Of Mexico” and “Molly O”, though the former is far better, things hit a serious snag. First there’s a nice folk song that’s unfortunately about faith in god (more on that later), then there’s a cool Tom Waits-like harmonica and weird percussion job, then there’s four boring nothing slabs of obvious tales about obvious people, being boringly in love or roaming around, without any musical hooks to make their tales interesting. Then there’s a song about how New Orleans is going to be a-okay, and it’s a bit hokey. Steve’s an older man! Way over half dead! An intelligent, well-meaning old man, but he can’t help sliding into kindly grandfather mode just a bit.
And that song about god, “God Is God.” I just can’t. See, it should be a nice song, and it shouldn’t matter that I am not a man with faith (to be exact I see faith – the act of believing without reason – to be at the top of my list of god-free sins), when I enjoy songs about so many experiences I have not personally had that there’s no point in starting to list them. But but but, this one in particular I can’t abide by without wanting to throw my iPod under the bus’ wheels at the next rest stop. “I believe in prophecy.” Why, Steve, why? Nostradamus was a fraud and Joseph told parables. There has literally never been a true prophet, but many thousands of false ones. Many of them have led tribes and cities into bloody conflicts that would have been otherwise avoided. “Even money is telling me that it’s in God I must trust.” Clever line and all, but a couple nights ago I watched a shell land amidst a bunch of fighters in some Middle Eastern country, and there was blood everywhere, and all they kept yelling was “Allahu Akhbar!” over and over, and that’s just a more dramatic, less poetic way of saying that it’s in god they trust too, and it isn’t your god, Steve. Which isn’t a good argument for atheism (others have done that well enough for me), but it’s enough to explain why I have trouble listening to a nice old white man talking about his faith, wondering if he’s going to go all Dostoevsky on me next album. Religiosity is something that I’ve spent my adult life associating with backhanded charities, foreign wars, and my father’s disappointment. It’s a real buzzkill when you were all excited because one of your heroes is still sorta killing it at age 53 or whatever.
A low 7, and only because the filler is still filled with nice finger picking and a lady that sounds a lot like Emmylou Harris, and because anyone who makes Pontchartrain rhyme can always take another little piece of my godless heart.

7 / 10

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