Steve Earle

Chronicles

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For those who came to know Steve Earle's music through his Warner and E Squared recordings, this triple-disc box set containing his first three MCA albums will be a revelation. It contains remastered versions of Guitar Town, which is expanded, Exit 0, and the underappreciated Copperhead Road. Steve and his band, the Dukes, rewrote the Nash Vegas books by combining hard country, singer/songwriter-style folk, and roots rock that wove acoustic and electric guitars around songs that were not formulaic or necessarily catchy to the radio-friendly ear and still scored hits. Why? Simple: form and substance over style. Earle's early recordings were all produced by Tony Brown, who slicked them up a little, but not enough to cover the rough edges. The latter two albums could have been from the same session and boasted tunes that the songwriter still plays today, including "My Old Friend the Blues," "Guitar Town," "Someday," "Angry Young Man," and the anthemic "I Ain't Ever Satisfied." Copperhead Road was a small detour in that it engaged lean and mean electric rock & roll more, but still kept its literate, earthy approach and boasted some of the finest songs of Earle's long career, including the title track and "Devil's Right Hand." Taken together, these three records all stand the test of time and make for an excellent, even necessary package.

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