A couple of years ago I was fortunate to see Steve Earle, solo, in an intimate evening of music at the Barbican centre in London. It should come as no surprise to any Earle fan that sans band Earle is as interesting, perhaps more so, than when backed by the Dukes.
If like me you think Earle is one of the greatest living song writers then you'll already be reaching for the One-Click and to cut to the chase you will not be at all disappointed by this immensely satisfying collection.
These 14 tracks provide a comprehensive history of Earle through the 3 periods of his musical career, new-kid on the Block, on-the-edge drug addict and thankfully his renaissance dating from after his incarceration.
Earle's bare to the core, transparent lyrics are what does it for me. Whether summarising the middle east conflict ("And I believe that on that day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords")or evoking the desperate payback of a disillusioned Vietnam vet ("I learned a thing from Charlie don't ya know, you'd better stay away from Copperhead Road!") Earle never fails to cause the listener to think - a reaction missing in so much 'music' these days.
Paring back his performance to the man, his guitar and his songs is highly effective and I suspect that this will become a regular platter on your CD/MP3 player.
If this is your first Earle purchase I'd seriously start elsewhere in his vast catalogue first but if Earle is already in your collection you cannot miss out on this gem. 5 stars just ain't enough.