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So You Wanna be an Outlaw (a brief review)

A few days ago, I purchased Steve Earle’s latest offering, So You Wanna be an Outlaw. Some of Earle’s recordings have really resonated with me. El Corazón, Transcendental Blues and The Mountain are albums I still listen to regularly today. I think they’re fabulous and they keep on giving. We were disappointed, though with a Steve Earle performance at Massey Hall a few years ago, the one where  he had a guy with a drum machine instead of other musicians accompanying him. It was at best so-so. I haven’t heard some of his more recent recordings. Townes, his tribute to Townes Van Zandt, was pretty good, but uneven.

I’ve listened to the new one several times now. The rockers in the set, with their rough & tumble production, didn’t do much for me, and the addition of some Willie Nelson guest vocals on the title track didn”t help much. Those performances are OK but the tunes are just not all that memorable. You Broke my Heart is a beautiful country tune. So is Walkin’ in LA, which features some guest vocals by Johnny Bush. I’d say the latter is the highlight of the album.

The last tune on the recording, Goodbye Michelangelo, seems to be a tribute to Earle’s old friend Guy Clark. It’s heartfelt, but filled with forced rhymes. It’s just not good enough to pay tribute to Guy Clark.

I want So You Wanna be an Outlaw to be a fabulous Steve Earle album, but I doubt it will get a lot of play around here, at least not in its entirety. More likely I’ll add the 3 or 4 songs I really like to a playlist with some other material and forget about the rest.

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