Album Review: So You Wannabe An Outlaw, Steve Earle

"Croaky and the bandit."

The mighty Waylon Jennings released some solid gold classics in the ’70s, chief among them 1973’s Honky Tonk Heroes, an album that Steve Earle refers to as the “Exile On Main Street of country music”. There is no higher praise – and that album nearly lives up to it. Earle is out to channel records like this, and Willie Nelson’s classic Shotgun Willie, in a deliberate move into “outlaw country”, a genre that could be succinctly defined as country laced with rock and roll. Willie, Waylon et al were listening to what bands like The Rolling Stones were doing, inspiring them to move away from the homogenised Nashville sound, and strike gold.

Earle is an old hand at this stuff – see his ’80s classics Guitar Town and Copperhead Road – and from the duet with Willie Nelson on the title track, to the Miranda Lambert-featuring ‘This Is How It Ends’, to the plaintive ‘The Girl On A Mountain’, the songwriting and musicianship are great. However, the voice sounds strained at times. ‘Walkin’ In LA’, although a rollicking tune, could use the easy rolling charm Waylon always had, and ‘Fixin To Die’ – a pissed-off honky-tonk band trying to play ‘Helter Skelter’ – belongs on another, lesser album altogether. That said, any LP with telecaster/fiddle/pedal steel toe-tappers like ‘Lookin’ For A Woman’ and ‘If Mama Coulda Seen Me’ is always going to be more than alright by me.

Out now.


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