Steve Earle - So You Wanna Be An Outlaw album review

Hard-core singer-songwriter pays tender tribute to old friends and fallen heroes

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Steve Earle reconnects with the Texas and Nashville roots of his early career on this, his latest country-folk album. Willie Nelson delivers a reliably croaky guest vocal on the title track, a cautionary tale about the perils of living by your own rules, but he is outshone by his fellow Texan old-timer and sometime collaborator Johnny Bush, whose polished croon adds a touch of old-school class to the jaunty duet Walkin’ In LA. Earle also pays fond homage to one of his Nashville musical mentors, the late Guy Clark, on the elegiac Goodbye Michelangelo.

The gravel-voiced 62-year-old coasts along on foot-stomping jukebox cliché at times, but his howling murder ballad Fixin’ To Die burns with an agreeably ragged fury, while plaintive finger-picking story songs such as News From Colorado are welcome reminders that he can sometimes out-Springsteen The Boss himself in the heart-stirring Americana stakes.