Top critical review
A Rich yet Rockin Choice for All Steve Fans
October 1, 2001
To follow up the superb songwriting and rough polish of Steve Earle's last gem, "The Mountain", was no easy task. With his newest CD, "Transcendental Blues" it's clear that Steve Earle has decidedly left the likes of buttoned up bluegrass set behind.
I got my first listen when Steve appeared on Letterman in May -- (look for another appearance in early July). The newly transcended Steve looks an awful lot like the pre-Mountain Steve, and sounds a lot like him too. For the Letterman spot, Steve performed the title track, "Transcendental Blues", and I must say I was a little worried I found the song monotonous and boring (is it just one chord?).
When the CD arrived in the mail I tore it open and popped it in the CD player. Although the first few tracks *are* very monotonous, "Transcendental Blues" proves a very rich and diverse CD. This release has something special for every Steve Earle fan.
"Transcendental Blues" is a folk-bluegrass-country-rock fusion collaboration packed with 14 songs, and most of them land in familiar Earle territory. Steve has reportedly spent a lot of time in Ireland lately, and it comes through on every song. It's a real treat to pick out all the different instruments -- accordion, bagpipes, triangle(!), mandolin, harmonica, tin whistle, to name a few. But don't get me wrong, this CD has a decidedly ROCK tone.
Included is one official bluegrass tune -- along with a sarcastic afterthought seemingly vented at bluegrass legend and former "Mountain" contributor Del McCoury - rumored to have a rift with Steve over his use of foul language. It would be hard to iron the "vulgarity" out of Steve, even when you trade his t-shirt and cigarette for a suit and pipe.
All in all, "Transcendental Blues" won't move heaven or earth, but it is a must have for all Steve fans. Rough and Tough Steve is back, with a familiar if not "transcendental" sound.