STEVE EARLE & THE DUKES : SO YOU WANNABE AN OUTLAW
Label : Warner Brothers
Length : 49:33
Released : June 16, 2017
Review (AllMusic) : Steve Earle has had a problematic relationship with country music throughout his career. His roots in the Texas songwriting community and its Nashville annex run deep, but he's never had much use for the strict boundaries of style and decorum that define Music Row. Since he returned to duty in the mid-'90s after a near-fatal bout with drugs and the law, Earle has behaved more like a singer/songwriter or contemporary folk act than a country artist. In many respects, that's fitting given his body of work, but it has also cut him off from some of the qualities that made his early work so memorable as he pushes back on his twangier instincts. Perhaps Earle suddenly became eager to take a look into the past, or he was inspired by the current success of literate country outsiders like Sturgill Simpson and Jason Isbell. But for whatever reason, 2017's So You Wannabe an Outlaw is the most explicitly country record Earle has made since his bluegrass set The Mountain in 1999. Thirty-one years after Guitar Town, Earle's approach to making a country album has changed; So You Wannabe an Outlaw sounds rougher, tougher, and more spontaneous, with more than a bit of rock & roll swagger blending in with the fiddle, pedal steel, and twangy guitars. Thematically, the album covers a lot of ground that one would expect from Earle -- troubles with women ("This Is How It Ends" and "Lookin' for a Woman"), hard times ("New from Colorado," "Walkin' in LA"), living on the wrong side of societal expectations ("If Mama Could See Me" and the title cut, which features a vocal cameo from Willie Nelson), and watching fate catch up with your friends ("Goodbye Michelangelo"). Earle doesn't always sound as keenly inspired as he did when he was writing stuff like this in the '80s and '90s, but his craft is, if anything, better, and similarly his voice is showing its age but his phrasing is as smart and dramatically effective as it has ever been. So You Wannabe an Outlaw is something plenty of Steve Earle fans have been wanting for years, a no-excuses country album that updates his breakthrough work, and it's an effort that should please his core audience while also sounding like an album Earle made entirely on his own terms.
Notes (Warner Bros.) : So You Wannabe an Outlaw, Earle’s first album for Warner Bros. Records since 1997’s El Corazón, explores his country songwriting roots and features collaborations with Willie Nelson, Johnny Bush, and Miranda Lambert. “There’s nothing ‘retro’ about this record,” Earle says. “I’m just acknowledging where I’m coming from.” So You Wannabe an Outlaw is the first recording he has made in Austin, TX. Earle has lived in New York City for the past decade. “Look, I’m always gonna be a Texan, no matter what I do,” he says. “And I’m always going to be somebody who learned their craft in Nashville. It’s who I am.” So You Wannabe an Outlaw is an homage to outlaw music and is dedicated to the late Waylon Jennings. “I was out to unapologetically ‘channel’ Waylon as best as I could.” Earle says. “This record was all about me playing’ on the back pick-up of a ’66 Fender Telecaster on an entire record for the first time in my life. The vocal part of it is a little different. I certainly don’t sound like Waylon Jennings. I moved to Nashville in November of 1974, and right after that Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger came out. I was around when Waylon was recording Dreaming My Dreams. Guitar Town (Earle’s 1986 chart-topping, Grammy Award-winning debut album) wound up being kind of my version of those types of songs,” Earle recalls. Earle is backed on So You Wannabe an Outlaw by his long-time band The Dukes — guitarist Chris Masterson, fiddle player Eleanor Whitmore, bassist Kelly Looney, and new members drummer Brad Pemberton and pedal steel player Ricky Ray Jackson. The album was produced by Richard Bennett and recorded at Arlyn Studios in Austin.