Music Review: Earle borrows from Hank epitaph for new CD

Steve Earle, “I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive” (New West)

Veteran singer-songwriter Steve Earle invokes Hank Williams in his new album’s title, ’I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive,“ which also serves as the name of his first novel, to be published in May.

As Earle well knows, a song with the same title served as Williams’ epitaph: Hank’s ”I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive“ was a radio hit at the time of his death at age 29.

But rather than sing about succumbing at an early age, Earle uses this collection of original songs to celebrate survival and struggle.

Working with producer T Bone Burnett, who mixes traditional folk music with bass-heavy rhythms, Earle deals with dark fates, from doomed politicians to dangerous backstreet encounters to an oil spill that threatens the livelihood of a shrimping family that has worked the same waters for generations.

He counters those songs with tales about how perseverance can pay off, whether it’s New Orleans rising from disaster in the fiercely stated “This City” (first heard on the HBO series “Treme,” in which Earle has a recurring role) to finding lasting love late in life in the tender ballad “Every Part Of Me”.

Earle’s message, it seems, is that even with life’s temptations and tragedies, redemption and meaning can be found—especially in love, in family and in community.

CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: The autobiographical “Waitin’ On The Sky,” set to a Tex-Mex arrangement reminiscent of the Sir Douglas Quintet, starts with Earle growing up under the specter of the Vietnam War and ends with him declaring that, at age 56, he’s happier than he’s ever been.

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