My expectations for a new Steve Earle recording is that it's simply Earle being Earle. As much as he enjoys flights of fancy, love songs, and songs honoring family and friends, he equally cannot tear himself away from injustice, hardships, and acknowledgements of the frailty of our lives - and especially his own.
As an audience it's possible to become somewhat used to things simply being excellent, so much so that we can forget just how good Earle is. His consistent output is such that pre-ordering once a new disc comes up is a reflex action on my part.
This recording covers the usual canvas, from the disenfranchised to simple melodies and messages. The other musicians are used subtly, but careful attention to the backing track reveals the details nicely.
Writing "this is Earle being Earle" m ay sound like damning with faint praise, but the fact is he has defined himself long ago, and is simply plowing the furrow in ever more deliberate ways. And so consistent is his work that you could choose this, or any other of his recordings, as an introduction.
The CD comes in a Digipac that folds out into three panels. The booklet contains full lyrics. The "Special Edition" includes a "Making of" film, and a music video on a DVD. However, the real bonus is a high resolution copy of the album in 24/96.