Steve Earle is what we call a multitasker. In addition to a successful career as a singer-songwriter, Earle has branched out into the fields of fiction, playwriting, and even acting. Heck, he was always there for Bubs on The Wire as Walon, and hes currently guiding a lost soul on Treme as Harley. Its easy to confuse the performance with the man giving it, but isnt that who Steve Earle really is? Hes been to hell and back, having served a stretch of years in prison and having dealt with a heroin addiction. When people come out on the other side actually learning something and sustain that newfound knowledge over many years, you tend to listen to them. Thats why Earles new album, Ill Never Get Out of This World Alive, is so effective.
The back-to-back Irish flourishes of The Gulf of Mexico and Molly-O invoke Irish sing-alongs, with the former responding to the BP oil spill by way of beautifully executed choruses. God is God is a soul-baring rumination on the existence of God, or at least ones personal belief. Earle lays it all out there with the line I believe in God, and God aint us. The song, as well as the rest of the album, is aided by T-Bone Burnetts production, similar to his work on the Crazy Heart soundtrack and the Grammy-winning Raising Sand from 2007.
A couple songs dont mesh well with the material surrounding them. Little Emperor would feel relevant were it written anytime between 2000 and 2008, but now it only serves as a tired kick to a former commander in chief. Meet Me in the Alleyway tries to do something with Earles distorted vocals but ends up wearing out its welcome before reaching the aforementioned alleyway. Fortunately, the simple declarations of love in Every Part of Me (no doubt to wife Allison Moorer) and the haunting This City, an ode to New Orleans, more than make up for these slight missteps. Ill Never Get Out of This World Alive is a solid addition to Steve Earles vast catalog and a reminder that despite having a full plate, music is forever where his heart lays.