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Steve Earle: Transcendental Blues
Steve Earle: Transcendental Blues
turnover time:2024-06-25 04:33:26

For some artists, epiphanies arrive in the middle of the night with no warning. Steve Earle's came while he was serving time. Though he had been responsible for a string of acclaimed albums before his incarceration, his stint in prison on drug charges seems to have inspired him to do even better, renewing a sense of urgency and craft in his music. Like most of Earle's recent records, particularly El Corazón, Transcendental Blues is all over the place stylistically. But Earle is a purist at heart: He bounds from Celtic folk to bluegrass, Beatles (early and late) to Byrds, Woody Guthrie to Far Eastern drones, and back again with reverence and respect, picking and choosing the elements he likes without altering their essence. Yet Earle's strength as a songwriter ensures that he won't be buried underneath all the references: Extending his winning streak to five albums, he's become a paragon of quality and musical honesty. Transcendental Blues' title track is a monolithic statement of purpose, a harmonium-soaked melodic drone that sets up the eclecticism to come. "Another Town" once again demonstrates Earle's ease with straight-ahead rockers, while "I Can Wait" and "I Don't Want To Lose You Yet" are heartfelt ballads steeped in sensitivity. The harmonica comes out and sister Stacey comes on to sing for "When I Fall," her nasal twang a nice contrast to her brother's rough voice. Lest the drama get too overbearing, there's "Steve's Last Ramble," "The Galway Girl," and "Wherever I Go," each leavened by Earle's humility (and, in the case of "Wherever I Go," chiming Byrds-esque guitars and Benmont Tench's organ). Transcendental Blues stands as another fine achievement from a man some wrote off years ago. With another epic tour raring to go, his continued political activism on the plate, and a book of short stories in the works, Earle is a busy man, but this material should more than suffice until he next finds himself in the studio.

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