Artist: Steve Earle
Title: “Train a Comin’ ”
When Steve Earle spoke about overcoming addiction in his role as Walon on HBO’s “The Wire,” it was art imitating life.
Earle spent 60 days in prison and began drug rehab in the early ’90s, with “Train a Comin’ ” being his first effort after his departure from music.
What listeners get is bare bones. While the title gives the sense of impending doom, the Virginia-born songwriter penned many of “Train’s” tracks before his musical hiatus.
One that came after, however, was “Goodbye,” whose main character mourns the loss of a lover. “Was I just off somewhere just too high?” Earle wonders against a sparse country arrangement. Just as Walon spoke with wisdom about addiction, we know Earle felt this pain.
Nothing else here touches “Goodbye,” but there are solid songs. Earle has a knack for character studies (“John Walker’s Blues,” “Rich Man’s War”) so “Ben McCulloch,” a look at the Civil War through the eyes of a Confederate brigadier general, is in his wheelhouse.
The quiet, reserved tone is unlike much of Earle’s post-prison material, but laid out the plan for a level of artistry to which he aspired.
Our Music Year is Daily Republic popular culture writer Nick DeCicco’s yearlong online review in 2012 of albums he had previously not listened to. The reviews will appear in print on their corresponding days during 2013. Reach him at 427-6966 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ndeciccodr.