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2023 Albums Thing 221b - Steve Earle & The Dukes “So You Wannabe An Outlaw”

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And another alphabetically out of step new acquisition...normal service will be restored real soon... 

If you read Steve Earle’s sleeve notes for “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” the album is dedicated to the memory of Waylon Jennings. So the outlaw in the title is an outlaw country singer rather than a Billy The Kid type o' lawbreaker. The outlaw country singers were a group of artists who rose to prominence in that 70’s and 80’s including (but not limited to) Waylon, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Merle Haggard. Some of those guys had been in the business since the 50’s but in the period in question they broke away from the all powerful Nashville machine and reclaimed their creative freedom.

That outlaw country ethic is continued still by people like Sturgill Simpson and, of course  Steve Earle. He learned his trade at the feet of masters like Waylon, Tompall Glaser and Townes van Zandt as a 20 year old who had runaway from a normal life to pitch up in Nashville and be a songwriter. On opening song “So You Wannabe An Outlaw” he shares a little of what he’s learned, snarling 

So you wanna be an outlaw, buddy take it from me,

This living on the highway ain’t everything it’s supposed to be

He then hands the second verse over to a genuine Outlaw, Willie Nelson. This album is Steve Earle getting back to the Country after his Blues album “Terraplane” and a folky collaboration with Shawn Colvin and next song “Lookin’ For A Woman” is real Country. 

“The Firebreak Line” is a tribute to the firefighters who take on the wildfires in the US and nods its head to Ed Pulaski who invented the axe you commonly see US firefighters wielding which is known as a Pulaski. That’s followed by a beautiful ballad, “News From Colorado”, written with ex wife Allison Moorer and his niece Emily Earle.

Elsewhere in those sleevenotes we mentioned earlier, Earle admits that being out on the edges of society, as he and many of his mentors have been for much of their careers, means loss comes naturally and he’s been attending a lot of funerals recently. Waylon has gone now, so recently have Merle Haggard, Leon Russell and two of Earle’s “personal teachers” Steve Young and Guy Clark, the latter of whom is the subject of the album propers final song “Goodbye Michelangelo”.

This  2xLP version includes the albums 12 tracks plus 4 tracks from the Deluxe CD edition, covers of songs by Billie Joe Shaver, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings quite superb “Are You Sure Hank Done It This Way”, it’s a pretty damned good version of it too.

This as is good a Steve Earle album as I’ve heard. There’s Country, there’s angry, there’s tributes to ordinary workin’ folk and a couple of great ballads. Steve is one o’ the good ones and worth some of anybody’s time.

The Firebreak Line - https://youtu.be/81QQEblc8HQ?si=DxMy21DKUKGi3CCP

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