The Low Highway

Steve Earle & The Dukes (& Duchesses)

New West Records, 2013

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen


Even if you don't know a thing about Steve Earle, you can surmise pretty quickly from his road-worn voice and heartfelt stories that this guy has been places and seen things that few people can dream of, or in some cases wouldn't dream of. Though his work surfaces in everyday life, with his songs having been recorded by celebrities like Travis Tritt and Vince Gill, Earle has humbly stayed out of the spotlight. Additionally, Earle is an HBO series actor, author, and three-time Grammy winner. To put it mildly, this guy has lived a life full enough for two people, and at nearly 60 years old he isn't stopping anytime soon. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On The Low Highway, Earle takes bits and pieces of several genres he's explored in his lengthy career, and with his backing band, produces a career highlight. It leads off with the title track "The Low Highway," a calm, poetic opener with beautiful pedal steel; Earle's gritty voice is both rugged and soothing. This moves right into "Calico Country," a louder bar rocker that musically and lyrically sounds like small town life. "Burnin' It Down," the third track, continues the exploratory theme and sounds dissimilar to the tracks prior to it, coming off as something that might have been on the first couple Ryan Adams records. This goes into the accordion, back porch romping of "That All You Got," which has sweet female vocals complementing it.

The middle of the album is just as grand as the beginning, with the bluesy, folky, and violin heavy "Love's Gonna Blow My Way," the piano driven "Pocket Full Of Rain," the acoustic guitar of "Invisible" and the banjo acrobatics of "Warren Hellman's Banjo." Though there isn't a bad moment here, Earle saves some of the best selections for the end with the country rock and quickest track "Down The Road, Pt. 2' and the slow, soulful Americana pretty "Remember Me."

Earle's music has all the hallmarks of a Guthrie, Dylan, Waits, or Van Sandt album. Timeless, universally relatable, and eloquent, The Low Highway resonates with a tremendous amount of sincerity and is executed with much grace. This is a must, and you'll want the physical version of this for the liner notes from Earle, too. 

Rating: A-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2013 Tom Haugen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of New West Records, and is used for informational purposes only.