Earle, El Corazon (E Squared/ Warner 1997)
- Since bottoming out due to his imprisonment for heroin possession,
Steve Earle has transformed himself from country hell-raiser to a reflective
and intensely honest songwriter. El Corazon is a strong
album from front to finish, and is a worthy successor to the acclaimed,
I Feel All Right (1996).
With his blend of folk, country, and rock, Earle isn't an easy target.
To my taste, Earle reminds me of a plain-song John Prine.
(Maybe that's an oxymoron. It's probably more accurate to say Earle
resembles Prine in his candid observations of life, but without the
whimsical side.) Earle also brings to mind a countrified Bob
Dylan. But the songs are the real reward.
Thus, "NYC" (recorded in Seattle with the Supersuckers)
is a feedback-drenched rocker which Earle calls "a mid-life crisis set
to music. I've reached an age where there are some things that I know
I am not going to do . . . The song is about trying to deal with that
in a graceful manner."
Earle shifts effortlessly to the more reflective, "You Know the Rest,"
which was recorded in London. Earle explains, "London was a place where
I'd misbehaved pretty badly in the old days . . . The food sucks in
England and I don't get high any more, so there wasn't anything else
for me to do."
El Corazon also includes "Poison Lovers," a smashing
broken-heart duet recorded with Siobhon Kennedy, and
the more upbeat, "Telephone Road," recorded with theFairfield
Four on backing vocals.
The highlight of the album is "Ft. Worth Blues," a lilting lament
to the road penned in memory of the late Townes Van Zandt.
"Ft. Worth Blues" has the kind of searching honesty that characterizes
Van Morrison's best work, and will bring you back again
Great albums sometimes come from the most unlikely places. Sobriety
agrees with Steve Earle, who is on the verge of becoming one of America's
Gilkyson, Redemption Road (Silver Wave Records 1997) - Redemption
Road is the fourth release from Austin, Texas-based singer/songwriter
Eliza Gilkyson. With her sweet and gentle style, Redemption
Road is an earthy and warm companion.
Eliza was raised in the spiritual environs of Santa Fe, New Mexico;
those influences show on Redemption Road. Says Eliza,
"I was working with the concept of redemption on this recording, not
in the religious sense, but more on the personal level. I am fascinated
with the on-going process of losing and finding one's self and one's
faith. The cyclical nature of the 'fall and redemption' of the spirit
of each human being. For better or worse, it seems to be the way we
move along our individual paths."
That's a pretty heady topic. Happily, the 12 cuts on the album don't
bog down: Rather, Redemption Road has a soothing feeling,
like having your mother sing to you.
In addition to Eliza's talents on guitar and vocals, the new release
features assistance from Van Dyke Parks, brother Tony
Gilkyson (the guitarist for the seminal alternative band, X),
and significant other Mark Andes (who has played bass
with such bands as Spirit and Firefall).
Which brings up this humorous sideline. I saw Eliza perform a live
acoustic show last year in Dallas. Based on the composition of the audience,
I would have sworn she appealed to a lesbian crowd. (Not that there
is anything wrong with that.) But I have spoken with people who know
Eliza personally, who say that Eliza is not targeting a gay audience.
Not that it really matters. Eliza
is an engaging performer with a wealth of songs that reflect her passion
for life and storytelling. Enjoy the gentle Redemption Road.
Gooch, Blind (Revolution 1997) - The foursome
known as Agnes Gooch, (the name comes from a supporting character in
the Broadway musical, "Auntie Mame") hope to revive the Hollywood rock
scene. Though not trendsetters, Agnes Gooch has solid rock and grunge
Some say Blind resembles the Pixies
or a revved-up Cheap Trick. While I don't dispute those
elements, I think the best description comes from singer and guitarist
Mat Baker, a reformed high school metalhead, who simply
says, "There's a metal detector on the record."
A product of our times, Blind has a polished sound
(and here's a bit of trivia: the stepmother of drummer Scott
Busakin is actress Joyce DeWitt from the sitcom
"Three's Company"). Agnes Gooch is a release for rock fans who need
a quick holiday fix.
-- Randy Krbechek