Steve Earle & the Dukes (and Duchesses)

The Low Highway (New West)

Phases & Stages

Steve Earle & the Dukes (and Duchesses)

The Low Highway (New West)

The Low Highway marks several firsts for Steve Earle. First album to credit the Dukes since 1987, it's also the first to acknowledge his wife Allison Moorer and Austin's Eleanor Whitmore as bandmates, dubbed the Duchesses. Three songs written for HBO's Treme, on which Earle played a street musician, make their recorded debuts as well, yet the renegade singer-songwriter's most rewarding accomplishment here remains the variety of styles and the ease with which they're executed. No surprise really, since these Dukes and Duchesses have been his road band for some time, but "Calico County" and "21st Century Blues" hark back to the Texan's Copperhead Road. He gets right to the point with "Burnin' It Down" ("it" being a Walmart) and builds slow 'til it nearly bleeds on "Remember Me." Road records have been done so often they've become cliche. Leave it to Earle to stand that notion on its head by revealing the gravel in his veins.

***.5

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