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Steve Earle

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Reviewed by Jim Caligiuri, Fri., April 29, 2011

Texas Platters

Steve Earle

I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Harrowing twists and meaningful turns so define Steve Earle's career that mortality underlies his oeuvre in powerfully subtle ways. Never one to do anything less than whole hog, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive tackles the subject head-on, both as a collection of new songs and as a novel, their shared title taken from Hank Williams' last single. The book imagines the doctor who administered Williams' last shot of morphine being haunted by the country music icon's ghost. Similarly, some of the songs, like the bustling "Waitin' on the Sky," resulted from Earle losing his father in 2007. There's also room for one last swipe at the Bush administration ("Little Emperor"), as well as the Emmy-nominated "This City" with its funereal horn arrangement by Allen Toussaint, heard in the New Orleans HBO series Treme, on which Earle occasionally appears. T Bone Burnett's production provides a certain dusky character to these songs that lends them a weight beyond their unadorned sentiments. He's added actor, novelist, radio show host, and playwright to his résumé, but Earle proves he's still capable of getting to the heart of the matter with charisma and skill. (Steve Earle performs from his new album and signs copies of his upcoming book of the same name at Waterloo Records, Wednesday, May 4, 5pm.)

***

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