The cumbersome credit of Earle’s new album – the first time any of his fellow players have been afforded a front-of- sleeve name check since 1990’s The Hard Way – is presumably an attempt to acknowledge the camaraderie of life on the road. As the title itself suggests, these 12 songs are largely inspired by the experiences of travelling troubadours singing for their supper.
It’s more of a motif than a full-blown concept, but few singer-songwriters are as qualified as Earle to chronicle the pleasures and pitfalls of long-haul touring, as he’s been doing it almost constantly for the best part of 40 years. The crunchy riffs of Calico County hark back to his early roadhouse days, the tender Remember Me is a plea to loved ones left at home, and the joyful shuffle’n’strum of After Mardi Gras celebrates the thrills encountered along the way.
Earle again proves himself to be a writer of some eloquence, not least on the prairie hoedown of Warren Hellman’s Banjo, dedicated to the late billionaire philanthropist who spent a good deal of his own cash promoting bluegrass music. The Low Highway is an album brimming with characters, be they Earle himself, his collaborators, his fans or, just as importantly, the long roads he’s pounded all his adult life.