Album: Steve Earle

Washington Square Serenade (New West)
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The Independent Culture

After two albums of concentrated political engagement, Steve Earle eases up with a more varied set of songs, several reflecting his move to New York. The album opens with his protagonist bidding farewell to Nashville in "Tennessee Blues" and heading north, his arrival marked in the exultant "Down Here Below" as the country boy contrasts his position with that of a hawk spied soaring through Manhattan. New York's multicultural mix is celebrated in "City of Immigrants" ("Everyone is everyone/ All of us are immigrants"), underscored by the light, sprightly flavour imparted by Brazilian band Forro In The Dark. But he can't just switch off his activist heart, as "Jericho Road" and "Steve's Hammer" attest, the latter a re-affirming coda to "If I Had a Hammer". Other tracks reflect Earle's activities: there's a funk-folk celebration of "Satellite Radio" (on which he presents his Hard Core Troubadour Radio show), and a cover of Tom Waits's "Way Down In the Hole" (the theme to the cop series The Wire, on which he plays a recovering addict). The album loosely, but effectively, knits together the personal and the political.

Download this: 'Down Here Below', 'Satellite Radio', 'Steve's Hammer', 'Red Is the Colour'