Steve Earle opens his label debut by declaring, "Goodbye "Guitar Town." But he's primarily saying so long to his Nashville residency with "Tennessee Blues" because this man bid farewell to the country music community a long time ago. NYC is home now, and its known characteristics saturate much of the disc.
"Down Here Below" uses New York's grimy exterior as a metaphor for our increasingly dirty world, while "City Of Immigrants" realizes New York is the first hometown for many new Americans. Although Earle experienced fleeting country music success, he's always been a folk troubadour at heart. "Satellite Radio," for instance, comes off like hick-hop with its rap cadence and redneck vocal. Its main character treats this popular new electronic medium like little more than an advanced CB radio.
This latest Earle CD offering is also not as pointedly political as past releases. Instead, Earle has chosen to make more generalized social statements. "Steve's Hammer (For Pete)," for example, longs for a day when If-I-Had-A-Hammerers can permanently lay their hammers down. Its lyric jumps from the legendary John Henry to Pete Seeger to our ozone-depleted modern times. But unless the world sees drastic changes soon, don't expect Earle to ever be found without hammer in hand.