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Album: Steve Earle, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

To celebrate, synergistically, the publication of his debut novel of the same, Hank Williams-derived title, here's New Country's premier mechanic getting down to the nuts and bolts.

Earle's voice is as unlovely as ever, but there's feeling in that unloveliness and it is perfectly set off by the semi-electric ensemble which underpins the (increasingly Tom Waitsy) songs. As befits a novelist, the songs are narratives concerned with the big issues. Life, death, that sort of thing. Good record.