Album Review

Moving meditations on life, death

By Bill Beuttler
April 26, 2011

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Steve Earle’s stellar new album, produced by T Bone Burnett, takes its name from the final Hank Williams single (as does the multitalented Earle’s debut novel, out next month). It fits the theme Earle, who lost his father three years ago, says ties together the 11 tracks on the CD, all self-penned. “They are all, as far as I can tell,’’ he writes in the album notes, “about mortality in one way or the other.’’

Some may already be familiar. “This City,’’ featuring horn arrangements by Allen Toussaint, earned Grammy and Emmy nominations via the HBO series “Treme’’ (in which Earle has a recurring role as a New Orleans street musician). Two others, “God Is God’’ and “I Am a Wanderer,’’ were covered on Joan Baez’s Grammy-nominated “Day After Tomorrow,’’ which Earle produced. Another, “Heaven or Hell,’’ was written for an aborted follow-up to the Burnett-produced Robert Plant-Alison Krauss collaboration “Raising Sand’’; Earle and his gifted singer-songwriter wife, Allison Moorer, handle it here.

Newer highlights include “Meet Me in the Alleyway,’’ a voodoo response to “God Is God’’; the topical “Little Emperor’’ (a kiss off to George W. Bush) and “The Gulf of Mexico’’ (three generations watch the spill turn the water blood-red); and the autobiographical “Every Part of Me’’ (a love song to Moorer) and “Waitin’ on the Sky.’’ “Didn’t know that I was gonna live this long,’’ Earle sings with a chuckle on the latter, “now I’m sittin’ on the top of the world.’’ This record works as proof. (Out today)

ESSENTIAL “This City’’

Steve Earle performs with Allison Moorer and the Dukes at the Bank of America Pavilion on Aug. 17.