Top positive review
Just Like Death
February 18, 2015
That's Steve, quoting Lightnin' Hopkins. "The blues is something that's hard to get acquainted with. Just like death".
What this new CD shows, is that Earle is very much alive, and producing some of the best stuff he's come up with in a long while.
If playing the blues requires real life suffering to be authentic, this guy's more than paid his dues. Addiction, broken marriages, prison, and all manner of drama have infused much of his work with darkness. This however, is Earle's first explicit foray into blues, and of it he says, "One day, when it was time, [I knew] that I would make this record".
Well, it's time, and I'm glad he did. This is a great one.
The tightly wound sound of the Dukes sets off Steve's growling delivery of lyrics at times wistful, at times downright menacing. There's moments where the hair's gonna stand up on the back of your neck.
Though it's mostly basic 12 bar structure, Earle mixes up the sound, arrangements and tempos so that the whole thing flows in a bunch of unexpected directions. My favorite track is probably Better Off Alone. It's a grinding expression of abandonment and loss set against the need to keep on keepin' on. Go Go Boots Are Back is an upbeat riff about life on the surface of things skimming over the things that lie below. And King of the Blues is just a classic howling at the moon: "The day I was born the moon crossed the sun / Mama cried sweet Jesus what have I done / Lord have mercy on my unfortunate son / Before I drew my second breath Mama knew / She'd just given birth to the King of the Blues.
And then there's The Tennessee Kid, a blood-curdling tale of a pact with the devil. Here's just a snippet of this really scary song, "And the monster raised himself up / To the fullness of his stature / Black wings eclipsing a sanguine / Mississippi moon / Behold behemoth the trampler of infidels, / He who sweeps away nations / with a flick of his tail / Theopolis, Agrippa, Faustus, Paganini / Lurid and long is the tale of my prey / Question not the ironclad bond / of my surety / Set down here in blood / In your very own hand".
Yup, Terraplane is the blues like only Steve Earle could do it...