Album Review – Steve Earle – So You Wannabe An Outlaw
Review by Geoff Jenke
Steve Earle has been releasing albums for over 30 years now. Although he is known as a country artist, a large part of his recorded work cannot be called true country. He has dabbled in rock, blues, bluegrass and generally just a singer songwriter. So after 30 years we have what is a true country album.
If you’re going to do a album of both kinds of music, country and western, who better to call in for the opening song than the original country outlaw singer, Willie Nelson. The song, So You Wannabe An Outlaw is more about what it is like to be a real outlaw, loneliness rather than glory. From here on the album doesn’t stray far from what you expect from a country album but with Earle’s rasping voice and fine song writing, the album, coming in under 40 minutes, is tight and tough.
This Is How It Ends is the heartbreaking story of marriage break up sang by Earl and Miranda Lambert with an almost obligatory fiddle and guitar break in the middle. Their voices almost sound weary, like the actual people in the marriage break up. The sudden end to the song reinforces the songs theme.
Naturally after a break up you have to find a new woman and Looking For A Woman has Steve on the prowl again trying to shake “these love sick blues”. Nice slide guitar echoes throughout the song.
Fixin To Die is as heavy as the album gets and it is pretty heavy. Sounds a bit like a Led Zeppelin outtake at times. Steve reckons “he is going to hell” because he shot his woman. The surprising standout track of the album.
While there are plenty of up tempo bar room songs, there are also a couple of nice simple slow ballads. Steve sings The Girl On The Mountain honestly, as if it was about his life, which it may well of been.
Closing track Goodbye Michelangelo is an elegy for one of Earle’s closest friends, Guy Clark. Stark and emotional, it is just simple guitar played over his rasping voice. A nice finishing touch to the album.
The album is rough and ready at times, haunting at others. It doesn’t always work; You Broke My Heart for example is straight forward cringe worthy country. But the highs greatly outnumber the odd low points.
Nice to have you back in the country Steve.