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Steve Earle

Sidetracks – 2002 (Artemis)

Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz

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CDs by Steve Earle

Steve Earle's latest is a collection of movie soundtracks ranging from the brand new strong contribution of "Some Dreams" to "The Rookie" to a different verson of "Ellis Unit One" from "Dead Man Walking" to several unrecorded tracks. Earle says the songs are "not outtakes" but "stray tracks...either unreleased or underexposed."

In other words, this is a mish mash of country, reggae, Irish and rock. But don't equate that with being second rate. Far from it. While there maybe a lack of cohesiveness among the 13 tracks that a regular release might possess, Earle infuses almost all of the songs with his usual powerful singing voice. Except for two instrumentals - "Sara's Angel" and "Dominick St." - which are outtakes, but good solid, lively romps.

As for covers, Earle is hard hitting on the Chambers Brothers' revved up "Time Has Come Today" with Sheryl Crow and Abbie Hoffman and does a fine acoustic-based version of Little Feat's "Willin'," but a cover of "My Back Pages" finds Earle trying to emulate Dylan way too much resulting in Earle never finding his own voice. But that's among the few missteps on a collection that while not Earle's best, shows his ability to tackle diverse material quite well.