New West Records
Review by David Bowling
Steve Earle’s career is well past the three decade mark. During that time he has released over a dozen cutting edge country albums that have fused rock and folk elements into his sound. For his 16th studio album, he has moved into some personal unexplored territory.
Terraplane is a blues album in which Earle draws on a number of painful life experiences. He has been a brilliant musician, performer, and songwriter who have fought addictions and unsuccessful relationships for much of his career. His blues are not theoretical but painful and real.
His statement of intent is the album’s title, which was taken from the 1930s Hudson Motor Car Company automobile brand. It was the same model that inspired Robert Johnson’s “Terraplane Blues.” His song “The Tennessee Kid” has another connection to the Johnson lineage in that it is about making a pact with the devil, similar to Johnson’s “Crossroads.”
“Go Go Boots Are Back” has lyrics that explore what happens beneath the surface in people’s lives. “King Of The Blues” is an old style, in your face blues song.
Several songs almost form a mini suite. “Baby Baby Baby (Baby)” is repetitive and raw and then transitions to “You’re The Best Love I Ever Had,” which changes direction and has a nice and smooth flow. “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now” explores the pain of ending a relationship and then morphs into the upbeat “Better off Alone.”
The music ebbs and flows and changes tempos but always maintains a connection to the blues. Terraplane is not a huge leap of faith for Steve Earle but rather is the result of a natural progression. I may not be a shiny or bright album but it is a brilliant one.