by Steve Earle
Released: Oct 1997
Label: Warner Bros.
After beating a smack addition, doing time, and releasing a pair of near-miss comebacks, this 1997 LP is a genre-defining work of alt country, brimming with songs about hard labor and hard luck. The heavy dirge "Tanneytown" is the record's finest moment, and the Fairfield Four back up another highlight in "Telephone Road." "Fort Worth Blues" and "Christmas In Washington" homage two of Earle's heroes in Townes Van Zandt and Woodie Gutherie, respectively. Add it up and the quality of songwriting is Earle's finest since his 1986 breakout, announcing a career second-coming with authority.
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