CD Review Published in Sen Magazine Los Angeles 1995

Steve Earle Train a Comin' (Winter Harvest Entertainment)

Steve Earle is one of the many too-talented people who defy labels and consequently fall through the cracks of the system. No one thinks they know how to market an artist who bends genres; a country singer who plays rock 'n roll, looks like a biker and shoots heroin is an anomaly in Nashville and is therefore treated as such. Garth Brooks we can sell, Steve Earle we can't. While critical and artistic success helps, it doesn't fill the stadiums (or pay the bills), and four ex-wives and a serious drug habit can only make it worse. When his label gave up on him, Steve pawned his guitars and dropped out. More accurately, he went to prison.

Recorded in three days in early January, Train a Comin' is Steve Earle's acoustic album (although he says in the liner notes, "This ain't my unplugged record!! God I hate MTV"), an album he believes no major label would want, and is released though an independent company, Winter Harvest, in a one-off deal. Here is a collection of material ranging from his own previously unrecorded works from the 70's and 80's to the four songs he wrote "during my vacation in the ghetto", and includes covers of his guitar hero Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley", a Beatles tune, and the reggae standard "Rivers of Babylon". Train a Comin' is Earle's most intimate and personal album in a catalog of intimate and personal work. This is basic Steve Earle, plus acoustic guitars, mandolin, and an awful lot of raw energy, covering all the bases from bluegrass to gospel though country and folk. Allegedly drug free now, out on probation and already working on an as-yet-unsigned major label album, Earle may finally break the format that bound him.

by Rod Reynolds

© 1995 The Art Dept Los Angeles

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