Steve Earle

Steve Earle

Steve Earle

The title, inspired by Robert Johnson’s immortal “Terraplane Blues,” says it all. Here’s Earle’s homage to the blues: 11 original, personal songs bathed in honest, authentic arrangements inspired by various vintage styles.

“Baby Baby Baby (Baby)” has the loping feel of a Jimmy Reed shuffle. The spirit of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” permeates “You’re The Best Lover That I Ever Had.” Both John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat and their surging boogie rhythms drive Earle’s spoken-word “The Tennessee Kid.”

The Dukes, particularly guitarist Chris Masterson and singer-violinist Eleanor Whitmore, play a major role in creating this authenticity, whether the backing is amplified, acoustic, or a blend of both, as reflected on “Acquainted With The Wind” and “Baby’s Just As Mean As Me.”

The rollicking, acoustic “Ain’t Nobody’s Daddy Now” has the feel and swing of a vintage jug band number, while “Gamblin’ Blues” echoes Mance Lipscomb’s ragtimey guitar picking. “The Usual Time” is framed in postwar Chicago blues and “King Of The Blues” is heavy on Lightnin’ Hopkins licks.

In a time when far too many modern “blues” records feel antiseptic and slick, Earle and band superbly integrate new songs and old sounds.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’15 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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