Steve Earle

Record Review

Phases and Stages

Steve Earle

Sidetracks (E-Squared/Artemis) A self-described collection of "unreleased or underexposed" songs, Sidetracks illustrates the many sides of Steve Earle. The album's 13 stray tracks are either taken from a movie soundtrack, previously available only in Japan, a remix or a rarity, and not for the most part, outtakes from his most recent albums. As a whole, Sidetracks is a treat, one that allows you to see the truly diverse musical streets Earle has walked the past few years. There's country rock, of course, like the new "Some Dreams," taken from the movie The Rookie, which is a keeper. There's also an attempt at reggae ("Johnny Too Bad," performed with the V-Roys), some well-played bluegrass, and an instrumental recorded in Dublin with an appropriately Celtic air. What's most surprising is the cover material Earle has undertaken. Seven of Sidetracks tunes were written by an impressive list of writers, including Bob Dylan, Lowell George, Kurt Cobain, Gram Parsons, and the Chambers Brothers. As expected, some, like the raw "My Back Pages," are more successful than others, like the dated, "Time Has Come Today." Still, one can't help but be impressed by his adventurousness and ability to make it all a listenable whole. Guest musicians include Sheryl Crow, the Supersuckers, Fairfield Four, and Tim O'Brien, who give the project an added boost. Those Steve Earle fans that are willing to follow his musical travels wherever they lead are sure to find Sidetracks a satisfying ramble.

***

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