Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses) - The Low Highway

Evocative despatches from country’s king of the road

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.
 

4 stars 4 stars 4 stars 4 stars

New West | NWA 30645 (CD / LP)

Reviewed by Terry Staunton
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