Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band
Steve Earle has pretty much cemented his reputation as a writer/performer of some of the finest music to come out of Nashville since the 50’s. He occasionally makes forays into whatever type of music he feels like playing at the time (as evidenced by the two Supersucker collaborations on El Corazon ), and by what he wants to say (the recent Johnny Too Bad EP), but this is the style of music he does best, and the reason is pretty simple. Steve is well respected and loved among his peers and his songs have been covered by the finest musicians of the day. As a result, he draws some of the best talent available anywhere to his projects. When he is working in this style, the talent well is deeper and the water is sweeter. When you can get the likes of Queen Emmylou and the incredible Del McCoury to lend their talents to your last two releases, you have been doing something right. The “something right” is consistently evidencing a real respect for tradition, writing very insightful songs, and displaying folk music sensibilities on par with Emmylou, and rapidly approaching those of the great Doc Watson.
I was kinda struck by the fact that nowhere on this CD, or in the accompanying notes I received, was the word “Bluegrass” used in direct reference to these songs. I suspect that Steve, like Ralph Stanley, knows that the late-great Bill Monroe kinda owns that word and omitted it as a sub-conscious tribute. Bluegrass will be used to describe the release in a lot of other reviews and that would be correct. The band is definitely a genuine Bluegrass band, and the themes are dead-on in the Bluegrass vein. This collection contains a blues song, “Graveyard Shift,” an Iris Dement duet, “I’m Still in Love With You,” a real-live-bad-tooth-hillbilly murder ballad in “Carrie Brown,” a mandolin breakdown, and a Jimmy Martin impression with “Yours Forever Blue.” The title song (and my favorite ) kind of reminded me of the old bluegrass standard “Dark as a Dungeon” turned inside out. The closer, “Pilgrim,” is a very moving tribute to the great Roy Huskey, Jr. In my humble hillbilly opinion, this is his finest record to date.
E-Squared, 1815 Division St., Suite 101, Nashville, TN 37203