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Country - Released January 4, 2021 | New West Records

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Months after the August 2020 death of singer-songwriter Justin Townes Earle at age 38, his father offers the world a stunning celebration of life—by covering Justin's songs. Comparisons will be made, but they always were. While Steve Earle has always been something of a wildman, all snarl and dishevelment, his son often cultivated a genteel, old-fashioned appearance. But Justin was just as wildly captivating live: howling and booming while he slapped his guitar and rolled his eyes. They both walked the path of Americana, but Justin easily veered off into more traditional county, folk, gospel and Memphis soul. Hearing Steve cover these sounds would be interesting even if you removed the genetics. He fills every corner of the sparse "I Don't Care" and folksy "They Killed John Henry" with warmth; the Hank-meets-blues rag "Ain't Glad I'm Leaving" is turned into something so raw it's terrifying and thrilling. You can hear Steve's every sigh and grunt, like the whole thing might go off the rails at any time. He brings a zydeco feel to "Harlem River Blues"—a slice of Guthrie Americana infused with soul and joy that belie the lyrics ("Lord, I'm goin' uptown to the Harlem River to drown")—and roughs up the romantic "Maria" just enough to underscore the Westerberg qualities. And his version of the Civil War Ballad "Lone Pine Hill" performs a shape-shifting trick. Justin's delivery of weary lines like "After four long years/ I just can't tell you what the hell I've been fighting for" always sounded like a young, scared soldier already afraid of future memories. Steve, with all the wear and tear on display, is the embodiment of that future: speeding up the tempo to something wilder, a subtle marching drum beat summoning up the regret. Meanwhile, on "Champagne Corolla"—a jubilant slice of rug-cutting Memphis soul—Steve pumps in a rockabilly vibe; it's more Sun Records than Stax. His version struts like the brassy original, but relies on cello instead of horns as the winkingly clever lyrics (some of Justin's most playful) bounce off the melody. "You can't trust a rich girl/ No farther than you can throw her/ Need a middle-class queen riding by in a champagne Corolla." Equally poetic is the bleak "Saint of Lost Causes": "Between a wolf and a shepherd/ Who do you think has killed more sheep?" Justin's version is all noir cool, while you can practically feel the heat coming off Steve's swamp-blues take. Justin once said, "My dad likes to put as many words as he can into a line, whereas I like to put as few as I can." But "Last Words," the only Steve Earle original on J.T., finds father honoring son by not cramming words into every line. Instead he unfurls only the purest, sobering yet sentimental thoughts: "Witness to the first breath that you ever drew/ I wish I could have held you when/ You left this world/ Like I did then." © Shelly Ridenour/Qobuz
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Country - Released May 22, 2020 | New West Records

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As Steve Earle has built a rising profile in the theater and acting worlds, his original music output has run thin. After 2000's Transcendental Blues, he's recorded a talky political manifesto, The Revolution Starts Now; Washington Square Serenade, a presumptuous bid to be part of NYC folk history; separate albums covering both Guy Clark and Townes Van Zandt and the inevitable blues album with a Robert Johnson-referencing title. Now comes Ghosts of West Virginia, which draws on Earle's love for American history and his support of the labor movement. Composed for the documentary play Coal Country (about the 2010 explosion that killed 29 miners), these short, bluegrass-influenced songs are pleasant if unmemorable, constrained by being a soundtrack to a pre-existing story. Dedicated to Kelly Looney, the longtime bassist for the Dukes, Ghosts was recorded at Electric Lady Studios in NYC by longtime Earle engineer Ray Kennedy. It benefits from the presence of a pair longtime collaborators—guitarist Chris Masterson and vocalist/fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore (heard on the love song, "If I Could See Your Face"). The big change is Earle's voice, now gruff and haggard, lacking much of its former expressiveness. It makes a song like "The Mine" a tough listen, though it adds the right atmosphere to "Black Lung"—and his gift of twangin’ rock and roll thankfully reappears on "Fastest Man Alive." Meant as a visual accompaniment, Ghosts is a placeholder for Earle completists and dedicated fans. © Robert Baird/Qobuz
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GUY

Country - Released March 29, 2019 | New West Records

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Steve Earle has always commended his two main idols. In 2009, he dedicated a tribute album, Townes, to Townes Van Zandt and ten years later he did the same for Guy Clark with the album Guy. Earle is an unparalleled author, a fantastic poet with his signature gravelly voice and an immense songwriter whose songs have been covered by Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Bobby Bare, Vince Gill and George Strait. Although in 2016 Clark sadly passed away, he will remain one of the best songwriters who told stories of living on the fringes of society like few others. At 19 years of age, Earle had the chance to play bass in his group. “Townes and Guy were like Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg for me” Earle reminisces, “When it comes to mentors, I’m glad I had both. If you asked Townes what it’s all about, he’d hand you a copy of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. If you asked Guy the same question, he’d take a piece of paper and teach you how to diagram a song, what goes where. Townes was one of the all-time great writers, but he only finished three songs during the last fifteen years of his life. Guy had cancer and wrote songs until the day he died. He painted, he built instruments, he owned a guitar shop in the Bay Area where the young Bobby Weir hung out. He was older and wiser. You hung around with him and knew why they call what artists do disciplines. Because he was disciplined”. Now 64 years of age, Steve Earle has himself become a wise man and an icon of alternative country music that is always keen to share and contribute to values, ideas, sounds and musical heritage. With his unique voice, he showcases the very best of Clark’s work here. Earle maintains a certain measure of classicism in these intense versions of the classic tracks Desperados Waiting for the Train and That Old Time Feeling and brings the album to a poignant close with Old Friends featuring just the right mix of old friends: Emmylou Harris, Rodney Crowell, Terry Allen, Jerry Jeff Walker and Jo Harvey Allen. © Marc Zisman/Qobuz
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Rock - Released February 19, 2015 | New West Records

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"Hell, everybody's sick of all my f---ing happy songs anyway," Steve Earle declares in the liner notes to his 2015 album Terraplane as he explains why he chose to cut a blues album. If you feel like you somehow missed Earle's Pollyanna period, you're not the only one, but if he was motivated to turn to the blues because of personal troubles -- he was going through his seventh divorce while he wrote and recorded these songs -- it sure sounds like he chose the right kind of musical therapy. Terraplane is the most relaxed and least fussed-over album Earle has made in quite some time, and frankly, he sounds like he's having a ball on these sessions; with rare exceptions, this isn't music that ponders the dark night of the soul, but semi-acoustic roadhouse boogie that rocks with a steady roll and gives Earle a chance to crow like a rooster as he ponders broken hearts, long lonesome highways, battles with the forces of destiny, and the enduring appeal of women in go-go boots. Terraplane is just introspective enough to suit the literacy of Earle's lyrical conceits (a wordiness that nearly gets away from him on the grand-scale shaggy dog tale of "The Tennessee Kid"), and he does take the opportunity to bare his soul on "Better Off Alone," but the interplay between Earle and the umpteenth edition of the Dukes (including longtime sidemen Kelly Looney on bass and Will Rigby on drums, as well as fiddler and vocalist Eleanor Whitmore and guitarist Chris Masterson) is downright playful when the tempo picks up a bit, and the good and greasy feel of "The Usual Time," "Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now," and "King of the Blues" is as satisfying as a big slab of smoked brisket. Maybe folks were tired of Earle's happy songs, but if you want to hear the man have a good time while kicking up a fuss in the studio, Terraplane is a ride well worth taking. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released November 18, 2020 | New West Records

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Rock - Released February 20, 2015 | New West Records

"Hell, everybody's sick of all my f---ing happy songs anyway," Steve Earle declares in the liner notes to his 2015 album Terraplane as he explains why he chose to cut a blues album. If you feel like you somehow missed Earle's Pollyanna period, you're not the only one, but if he was motivated to turn to the blues because of personal troubles -- he was going through his seventh divorce while he wrote and recorded these songs -- it sure sounds like he chose the right kind of musical therapy. Terraplane is the most relaxed and least fussed-over album Earle has made in quite some time, and frankly, he sounds like he's having a ball on these sessions; with rare exceptions, this isn't music that ponders the dark night of the soul, but semi-acoustic roadhouse boogie that rocks with a steady roll and gives Earle a chance to crow like a rooster as he ponders broken hearts, long lonesome highways, battles with the forces of destiny, and the enduring appeal of women in go-go boots. Terraplane is just introspective enough to suit the literacy of Earle's lyrical conceits (a wordiness that nearly gets away from him on the grand-scale shaggy dog tale of "The Tennessee Kid"), and he does take the opportunity to bare his soul on "Better Off Alone," but the interplay between Earle and the umpteenth edition of the Dukes (including longtime sidemen Kelly Looney on bass and Will Rigby on drums, as well as fiddler and vocalist Eleanor Whitmore and guitarist Chris Masterson) is downright playful when the tempo picks up a bit, and the good and greasy feel of "The Usual Time," "Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now," and "King of the Blues" is as satisfying as a big slab of smoked brisket. Maybe folks were tired of Earle's happy songs, but if you want to hear the man have a good time while kicking up a fuss in the studio, Terraplane is a ride well worth taking. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released February 8, 2019 | New West Records

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Country - Released April 22, 2020 | New West Records

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Pop - Released January 1, 1990 | Geffen*

"I defend The Hard Way to the death, because I almost died in the process of making it," Steve Earle told a reporter in 2000, and he wasn't just being melodramatic. Earle's well-documented addiction to heroin and cocaine was spiraling out of control in 1990 while he was holed up in Memphis recording The Hard Way. And while his 1988 album Copperhead Road showed him moving away from country and more toward hard rock -- and earned him a minor crossover hit in the process -- his record label was hoping for a major commercial breakthrough so that his sales might begin to match his good press. The resulting album is a bit of a mess, often sloppy and overbearing, where his country sides had been dynamic and precise, and Earle's voice was starting to show the strain of his lifestyle. Even his songwriting, usually peerless, wasn't at its best here, with "When the People Find Out," "Regular Guy," and "Justice in Ontario" sounding like they were tossed together fast to round out the album (the latter sounds like a transparent stroke to his Canadian fan base, where Copperhead Road went multi-platinum). But even his weakest studio album has plenty to recommend it, the all-too-biographical "Have Mercy" and "West Nashville Boogie," and "Billy Austin," a deeply moving ballad about a man on death row. The Hard Way isn't much of an album by Earle's standards, but it's still got enough heart, soul, and fire to prove Earle couldn't throw away his talent, no matter how hard he tried. © Mark Deming /TiVo
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Country - Released January 11, 2019 | New West Records

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Country - Released December 11, 2020 | New West Records

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Country - Released January 1, 1995 | Special Products

MCA Special Products' Fearless Heart may just be a budget-price compilation, but according to those standards, it's an excellent one. Rounding up the toughest rock-oriented material Steve Earle and his backing band the Dukes recorded for MCA, Fearless Heart is easily the hardest-hitting album in his catalog, keeping its driving momentum pumping not only through originals like "I Ain't Ever Satisfied" and "The Devil's Right Hand," but also covers like "She's About a Mover." Certainly, this isn't the place to turn to if you want to appreciate Earle's artistry, but it's nevertheless an intoxicating, rocking hard country record. © Stephen Thomas Erlewine /TiVo
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Country - Released March 25, 2020 | New West Records

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Rock - Released February 20, 2015 | New West Records

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Country - Released March 8, 2019 | New West Records

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Country - Released February 27, 2020 | New West Records

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Country - Released March 1, 2019 | New West Records

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Rock - Released February 17, 2015 | New West Records

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Country - Released May 5, 2020 | New West Records

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