Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Album Review: Steve Earle & The Dukes -So You Wannabe An Outlaw

Steve Earle & The Dukes
So You Wannabe An Outlaw
*** out of *****

Steve Earle's last few projects focus on certain topics as his Townes Van Zandt cover/tribute album showed a love for one of his heroes while Terraplane was a fixation on the roots of blues. Now Earle goes back to one of his earliest influences, Outlaw Country.  

This is a more natural fit for Earle as his swagger and the sweet support of The Dukes match this genre's touch points. While not a mind blowing album it is a solid listen for fans of that style with the opening title track even getting a guest vocal injection from Willie Nelson himself. While it is a good song the real country bandito that Earle is paying tribute to here is Merle Haggard.

That classic Merle electric guitar sound is everywhere to begin things, including the tough "Looking For A Woman" the stomping "The Firebreak Line" and most overtly on the strutting "If Mama Coulda Seen Me". A track like "Fixin' To Die" increases the volume and stomp and the snarl will work better on the live stage then on the the record.

Earle is at his heart a singer/songwriter though and while he puts on the out macho vibe with ease, his best songs are his softer acoustic ones these days and those are the focus of the more successful second side of the record. "News From Colorado" is the tale of woe matches his singing voice expertly, "You Broke My Heart" is waltzing raw emotion while closer "Goodbye Michelangelo" has a desperate forlorn feel. The album highlight comes in the middle as "This Is How It Ends" is a heart capturing duet sung and written with Miranda Lambert.

While Earle clearly wanted to pay homage to his hero Jennings with the first half of the record it is the second softer side that really shows his strengths these days. Perhaps in his younger Guitar Town years he would have been wilder with that Merle sound, but now Earle just goes on making solid records focusing on subjects he loves and So You Wannabe An Outlaw joins the line; where he sets his sights next is anyone's guess.
Support the artist, buy the album, and peep some video below:

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