[Review] Steve Earle – Terraplane

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It’s been a busy year for the Earle Boys. Justin Townes Earle, son of the consummate singer-songwriter released the blazingly impressive Absent Fathers in early January, while the elder Earle has been busier in recent years than perhaps ever before in his career. Luckily, Earle’s involved schedule hasn’t precluded him from crafting yet another copiously methodical record. Enter Terraplane, a gravely set of tracks backed by Earle’s longtime band The Dukes and hauntingly plucked out by the Nashville Cat himself. Earle ages like a fine wine; with each coming year a more fragrant bouquet of gloom and an acidity more potent than last.

From the days of “Better Off Alone” it’s been proven that Earle’s lyrics are tough to shake. We look to Terraplane’s “The King of The Blues” as most recent proof, “When I took my second breath my momma knew/she’d just given birth to the king of blues/and on that day somebody somewhere else died/Alone in a dark room and nobody else cried.” Boy howdy, what a slow burn it is.

Earle never crafts music out of his métier, which is admittedly (our favorite) mixed bag of jaunty southern gothic/Americana. Providing an excellent tour of Tennessee spatial boundaries from Copperhead Road to the spirited “Acquainted With the Wind.” Earle’s diplomacy for navigating the ugly parts of his home hasn’t diminished since 1986, and thirty years later he just as nimbly flits about the frayed contexts of Nashville et. all. Even his “jolly” tunes become apparently less breezy with any modicum of active listening.

It would be frivolous to analyze anything by Earle with a shot by shot perspective in mind. Much like the country greats before him, the emphasis of Earle’s career has been on the immersion of the entirety of his record. Dipping a toe into a track like “Gamblin’ Blues” does little to veil oneself into Earle’s realm of despondency and disillusionment. Terraplane is Earle looking back on 60 years of melancholia.

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