Let’s get one thing out of the way: as a matter of mythical legend, Steve Earle is a god of the alt country scene. He always seemed to understand the Nashville hostility (while also honoring its true talent) and his sentiments were with those alt country icons like Townes Van Zandt . He named his child after Townes. I probably should have dedicated a post in the 70s-80s section of this series to Townes, such was his influence. And given his influence, Earle is seen as moving the alt country ball far forward while honoring the past heroes. But we have to go back in time a bit, to pick up Earle in the 1980s. He was actually a promising mainstream star with a sort of non mainstream hook. His first album is 1985 and enjoyed commercial success hitting #1. Then, he seemingly disappeared. But then he came roaring back in the mid to late 90s.
Earle is a very political artist. This is how Slipcue describes him:
a soulful, star-crossed ne’er-do-well who has been at the heart of the alt.country boom since before it even had a name, has crafted a fine, if sometimes overly mannered mix of hardcore honkytonk and gnarly bar-band rock. Not all of his stuff works for me; the more biker-y, mumbled, tough-guy stuff wears thin, but his straight country material is usually really good. Earle’s career has had its ups and downs — he broke into the country mainstream with a strong, rock-flavored debut, which fit in well with the strain of resurgent “real man” sound that arose in mid-80s Top 40 country. He was doing alright until a drug bust, prison sentence and troublesome heroin addiction sidelined him for several years. But since then, Steve Earle has been back in fine form, with his very own record label and a strong fan base in the ranks of the alt.country scene. Earle courted controversy in the wake of the September, 2001 World Trade Center bombing by releasing a politically-inclined album whose single was a character study of the so-called “American Taliban,” John Walker Lindh. Outraged Nashville establishment figures lined up to denounce the shaggy alt.country troubadour, and many vowed Earle would never work in Nashville again. Their loss, I guess. Anyway, here’s a quick look at Steve Earle and his musical legacy.
In 1999, No Depression magazine put Earle on the cover. He was in the midst of a stint with the McCoury Band. It is a reflective piece of Earle coming into his own.
The music picks that follow are quite limited from his vast corpus. There is a not much online from Earle, and that is our loss.
In 1988, Earle was back:
In 1996 Earle had a huge breakout (not popular) record. The best song was “I Feel Alright”. In the video below he performs with the great band, the V-Roys:
But if 1996 was great, 1997 was even better. El Carozon was released this year and was an alt country smash. on the whole, it is my favorite Earle disc to date. It was the culmination of everything we heard could be possible from Earle way back in the 1980s. It may yet be his best to date:
For Worth Blues:
I still Carry You Around:
Moving to the year 2000, Earle released Transcendental Blues. I place it in the 1990s section of Earle because it capped a nice decade for the artist.
Here is a linkto Galway Girl (embed disabled)
I Don’t Want to Lose you Yet: