"Bound for New York City, and I won't be back no more ... won't see me around, goodbye Guitar Town," begins "Tennessee Blues" on Steve Earle's New West debut, the programmed beats behind him signaling a songwriter leaving his roots in more ways than just his relocation to Greenwich Village. With Dust Brother John King producing, the NYC imagery ("Down Here Below," "City of Immigrants") and lack of political orientation mark a new direction for the San Antonio-reared Earle. Though the drum-machine backing doesn't overpower Earle's songwriting on the opener or poignant "Come Home to Me," it does hollow the songs, and the banal anthem "Satellite Radio" and reworking of Tom Waits' "Way Down in the Hole" are looped disasters. The banjo-bludgeoned "Oxycontin Blues" is an impressively dark narrative, and wife Allison Moorer shades a soft harmony to "Day's Aren't Long Enough," but overall, there's very little that's alluring about this Serenade.
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