Steve Earle

Guitar Town 30th Anniversary (MCA)

Texas Platters

Before Guitar Town in 1986, few outside of the fertile songwriters' circle led by Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark had heard of Steve Earle. Sixteen albums later, the Schertz-reared troubadour's debut remains packed with songs illuminating the path to a lengthy and rewarding career. It's the kind of country tough enough to attract bikers, angry enough to rile punks, and literate enough with swaggering wordplay to distance itself from anything coming out of Nashville at the time while still remaining true to tradition. Guitar Town rises out of the working man's life epitomized by the songs of Bruce Springsteen. Earle adds a tangy Southern accent and Texas rockabilly sensibility that rides the back roads out of town on "Hillbilly Highway" with a stopover at the gas station attendant searching for something more in "Someday." Remastered, this Anniversary edition doubles up a second disc, a 19-song 1986 concert that reflects the album's attitude but also includes songs from the then-unrecorded but equally outstanding follow-up Exit 0 and Earle's now famous rendition of Springsteen's "State Trooper."

****.5

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