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

Steve Earle: I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive
(New West Records)

Steve Earle is a badass.  And he’s getting better with age.

Produced by T-Bone Burnett, I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive (a nod to the Hank Williams song of the same name) is a harmonious blend of Americana, Bluegrass and Celtic influence. It’s as if Woody Guthrie joined the Pogues and marched off to the Battle of Gettysburg. Though he may defy classification, Earle proves yet again whatever he plays these days just sounds like real country, not that Nashville pop BS.

During the peak of his success, Earle (like many of his contemporaries) fell victim to the dreadful, overproduced 80s sound. Stripping away all the synths and fuzzy-electric guitar, opting for banjo, fiddle and mandolin, has revealed the underlying purity and roots of his songwriting abilities over the past few decades. Once Earle got out of the 80s, he went from writing great songs to making great records and I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is further evidence why this guy was playing with legends like Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt at the age of twenty-two. Because? He’s just that good.

Today, Earle’s voice possess a grittiness that has evolved after years of recklessness that works exceptionally well for him. This man has lived. And somehow? He ain’t dead yet. Tracks like “Little Emperor” (a final send off to George W. Bush) and “God is God” are delivered with telling conviction. Yet, the album is balanced with solid reflective ballads (“Heaven or Hell”) and Guthrie-esque cries for the workingman (“I am a Wanderer”).

Earle is a force to be reckoned with. No longer an angry young man, he has emerged as a wise troubadour and I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive is his epic tale.

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