The Maverick’s Mixed Bag
The inimitable Steve Earle hadn’t released an original album since 2007’s Grammy-winning Washington Square Serenade. It was expected that I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive would pick up where that record left off, thematically and politically, even if the gleam of Greenwich Village had dimmed since Earle penned “City of Immigrants”. This latest effort by country music’s renegade does indeed fall between Washington Square and earlier outspoken releases like Jerusalem, mixing current event-themed critiques, personal stories and straightforward love songs.
Although all eleven tracks are respectable additions to Earle’s vast repertoire, the album itself is a bit of a hodgepodge. “Every Part of Me,” for instance, is an earnest ode presumably to wife (and vocalist) Allison Moorer. Although its sentimentality is ‘aww’-inspiring, it isn’t a huge creative leap for the forthright lyricist. It lacks the force of standout track “Gulf of Mexico,” which speaks of the oil spill through several generations of local workers. The heart-wrenching tribute to New Orleans, “This City,” is much more affecting than duet “Heaven Or Hell,” in which Earle and Moorer croon a tired chorus of “I love you baby but I just can’t tell/If this kind of love comes from heaven or hell.”
While I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive lacks some of the fervor of Earle’s more politically charged work, this toned-down album is still a success for the multi-talented maverick. It has its highs and its blahs, but produces some lovely examinations of mortality and the world.