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Steve Earle & The Dukes (And Duchesses): The Low Highway

Veteran digs into travelling tales for 15th studio album.

The last time Steve Earle credited the Dukes on an album was 1987’s Exit O. Twenty-six years on, the addition of female cadre the Duchesses (including his wife Alison Moorer) and the world-weary tone (21st Century Blues) mirror a similar course taken by key influence Bruce Springsteen.

But Earle’s narrative is compellingly singular, and the musical variety feeding his fiery and thoughtful tunes well measured. Whether recounting his own drug demons on the rolling blues of Pocketful Of Rain, or combining a reflective, folksy feel with an undercurrent of seething wrath (Burnin’ It Down), his ability to match the personal and political has seldom been sharper.

Even closer Remember Me, an ode to his newborn, sung in the worn, cracked voice of an aged father, favours raw honesty over glib sentiment.

Late NME, Daily Mirror and Classic Rock writer Gavin Martin started writing about music in 1977 when he published his hand-written fanzine Alternative Ulster in Belfast. He moved to London in 1980 to become the NME’s Media Editor and features writer, where he interviewed the Sex Pistols, Joe Strummer, Pete Townshend, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Ian Dury, Killing Joke, Neil Young, REM, Sting, Marvin Gaye, Leonard Cohen, Nina Simone, James Brown, Willie Nelson, Willie Dixon, Madonna and a host of others. He was also published in The Times, Guardian, Independent, Loaded, GQ and Uncut, he had pieces on Michael Jackson, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra featured in The Faber Book Of Pop and Rock ’N’ Roll Is Here To Stay, and was the Daily Mirror’s regular music critic from 2001. He died in 2022.