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Customer Review

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A pivotal record in Earle's life and career. Still astonishing., 7 May 2010
This review is from: Shut Up & Die Like An Aviator (Audio CD)
As brilliant as 1995's Train A-Comin' was - and it was, and remains, brilliant - the following year's I Feel Alright makes the true re-emergence of Steve Earle from the fug of heroin addiction, prison and rehab. Where the earlier record felt cautious, with Earle clearly uncertain about his own writing abilities in the first couple years of sobriety, I Feel Alright is defiant, brave, exhilarating and, occasionally, lacerating.

From the first swaggering chords of the title track, it is clear that Earle is in better health physically and mentally than at any point since Copperhead Road. A chin in the air I-Won't-Back-Down anthem, I Feel Alright sets the tone for much of the album. Fearless self-analysis, wit, tunes the size of Russia...

In many ways it is a protest record, but not of the sort Earle would come to produce later in his career - it's not Jerusalem. What angers Earle is the mythology of the Wasted Troubadour (the Hardcore Troubadour of the second track, even), the romanticising of self-destruction. With friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt crawling ever closer to his drink-sodden death, with friends falling like flies under the weight of this or that substance dependency, with he himself near destroyed by heroin, Earle knows better than most the price of that myth, the depth of the shadow cast by Hank Williams Snr from the back of that limousine all those years ago.

The stand-out track, and the one which attacks this notion with most vehemence, is the harrowing, wounding CCKMP. A filthy, pitch-black blues all droning chords and anguished howl, it is as naked and as raw as anything Earle has ever done. "Cocaine cannot kill my pain", he snarls. "Whiskey got no hold on me... Heroin's the only thing..." It's a far-cry from the cheeky, wink-and-grin of, say, Week Of Living Dangerously.

This is not to say, though, that I Feel Alright is some kind of endurance test for the listener - no-one's going to mistake this for a recent Scott Walker record. Earle never allows the anger or the heartache to override his way with a melody. Some of his most memorable compositions reside herein - the title track, Hardcore Troubadour, Valentine's Day, South Nashville Blues, You're Still Standin' There - the latter a gorgeous duet with Lucinda Williams, whose masterful Car Wheels On A Gravel Road Earle would go on to produce.

I Feel Alright is among the most consistently rewarding and memorable Steve Earle records, and achieves its main goal within the first five minutes, proving without doubt that when sober, Steve Earle is a hundred times the writer and performer he was when high. It is a kick in the face to a destructive, shallow myth, and an overwhelming victory for both Earle and his audience.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 May 2010 18:54:58 BDT
G. John says:
I think this reviewer is writing about a different album - not the live 'Shut up and die like an aviator' at all...

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Jan 2011 16:09:02 GMT
Gizmophobic says:
yep-it is in fact the 1996 album-I feel alright-apart from that its a fine review.
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