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Steve Earle

Just An American Boy – 2003 (Artemis/E-Squared)

Reviewed by Brian Steinberg

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CDs by Steve Earle

Years have past since Steve Earle's first live album, 1991's raucous "Shut Up And Die Like An Aviator," and now that he has released this live disc, it's quite clear how much has changed for this hard-core troubador. At the time of "Aviator's" release, Earle was hell-bound to make it big with his own brand of defiant, country-tinged rock. He was also fighting many of his own personal demons, and his slurring vocals and amped-up guitar sound more than prove it.

In the years that have passed, he has reformed somewhat - now he is clean and sober, but his music and lyrics still pack a wallop. Much of "American Boy" is devoted to Earle's live touring since the release of 2002's "Jerusalem." Once rooted in story-songs, Earle's tunes have taken on a much more topical punch, though his rebellious attitude still lingers. "American Boy" contains a group of songs questioning the America of today, such as "Conspiracy Theory" and "John Walker's Blues" along with in-your-face tunes like "The Unrepentant" and "Copperhead Road."

Earle, known for having quite a bit of on-stage wit, also includes a few of his best-known live remarks and mixes them in with a cover of Elvis Costello's "What's So Funny About Peace, Love & Understanding." Die-hards will want this document of Earle's social awareness and urgent songwriting, while less casual fans can enjoy a wide range of this artist's best material.