Rebel Yell

Texan renegade follows post-9/11 triumph Jerusalem with more political invective

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Well, somebody had do it. And with the outrages being committed by his government in the name of war (and peace) mounting daily, Steve Earle decided to pick up the gauntlet. In the past (“Christmas In Washington”) he’s invoked the spirit of Woody Guthrie, and here he seizes the activist-rallying mantle. The foolhardy zeal of a reformed addict on 12-step may drive him, but Earle’s stance is both vibrant and refreshing. The unashamedly polemical Jerusalem (2002) was the strongest album of his career, a defiant and thought-provoking response to Dubya’s America. And, as partisan as his friend Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, …Revolution continues where its predecessor left off.

The opening and closing title track is a riposte to the last album’s sour left-wing requiem, “Amerika V 6.0”. The Stones/Creedence riffs and cute handclaps aligned to a clarion-call lyric make for a song of defiant purpose and clarity. Continuity is one of Earle’s strong suits?the clattering “Home To Houston” has the hapless trucker who hit the “Hillbilly Highway” on his debut (Guitar Town, 1986) on a perilous road out of Basra, “ice water in his veins”, vowing never to drive again?if he gets out alive. The rank injustice of the War On Terror is seen from the perspective of both US-bred cannon fodder and a Palestinian-recruited suicide bomber on the wounded but righteous ballad “Rich Man’s War”. The vernacular punk blitz of “F The CC” is a snarling free-speech tirade, and the non-PC nature of Earle’s revolution throbs on “Condi Condi”. Lubricated by sleazy Caribbean garage rock, he gets into a froth over US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice’s hidden charms. File under justified harassment, possibly.

Although an Emmylou duet provides respite, the agit-rock triumph isn’t total. There are a few turgid moments, but these are minor quibbles: the heart beats loud and strong and, mostly, Earle’s music matches his intent.


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