fri 12/07/2024

CD: Steve Earle & The Dukes - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Steve Earle & The Dukes - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw

CD: Steve Earle & The Dukes - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw

Earle's career is as multifaceted as Jennings'

“So you wanna be an outlaw, better take it from me/ Living on the highway, ain't everything it's supposed to be” sings Steve Earle on the opening track of his latest album, with a little help from Willie Nelson.

Recorded in Texas, where Earle did most of his growing up and where he began to play music, So You Wannabe An Outlaw is an acknowledgment of his roots and influences and an “unapologetic” channelling of Waylon Jennings, a fellow Texan with a career as multi-faceted as Earle’s own.

The album’s frame of musical reference is wide: the bluesy “If Mama Could Seen Me”, commissioned by T-Bone Burnett for Nashville, and “Fixin’ to Die”, which Earle describes as “a dark shout from death row”, are part of outlaw mythmaking. “You Broke My Heart” and “Walkin’ in LA” (featuring harmonies by Johnny Bush) tip the Stetson to the sort of country music Earle would have seen on TV as a kid, evocative shades of Nelson, Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. (On “Heart”, Earle sounds eerily like Bob Dylan in his Self Portrait period.) “This is How It Ends”, on which Earle duets with the song’s co-writer Miranda Lambert, is in Dolly Parton/Kenny Rogers territory, while “Sunset Highway” has a Travelling Wilburys feel.

Mournful and evocative, “The Girl on the Mountain” and “Goodbye Michelangelo” are among the album’s highlights, folk balladry showcasing Earle the troubadour whose acoustic picking and plaintive vocal immediately draw the listener in. The latter is an elegiac tribute to his friend and mentor Guy Clark (“Goodbye maestro, Fare thee well/Gone to heaven, been to hell”). In contrast, “The Firebreak Line”, all dirty guitar, tells the story of forest ranger and firefighter Ed Pulaski.

Thirty years after Guitar Town, Earle’s chart-topping debut that can be seen as a response to Jennings’ Dreaming My Dreams, So You Wannabe An Outlaw is a welcome return to country music. Backed as usual by the Dukes, the album features notable work by fiddler Eleanor Whitmore and Ricky Ray Jackson on pedal steel.

Liz Thomson's website


The album’s frame of musical reference is wide


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

Share this article

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters