Steve Earle & the Dukes

Exit 0

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Steve Earle once told a reporter that after listening to the final mix of 1987's Exit 0, he and his band hopped on their tour bus and played yet another gig that night, which is what they'd been doing during most of their time off from recording sessions. Exit 0 was recorded with Earle's road band, the Dukes, instead of the usual team of Nashville session pros, and as a consequence it boasts a leaner, tougher sound than his debut, Guitar Town, though the slightly slick cookie-cutter production by Tony Brown, Emory Gordy, Jr., and Richard Bennett saps a bit of the music's power. The album features a few great songs, including "I Ain't Never Satisfied" (which could practically be Earle's theme song), "The Week of Living Dangerously," "The Rain Came Down," and "Sweet Little '66," but there's a faint hint of sophomore slump to Exit 0 -- "No. 29" is far too sentimental for its own good, the Doug Sahm homage "San Antonio Girl" isn't nearly as good as the songs that clearly inspired it, and "Angry Young Man" feels like filler, something in short supply on most Steve Earle albums. Exit 0 is just uneven enough to qualify as a genuine disappointment, though that's within the context of Earle's body of work; this is still livelier stuff than nearly anyone in Nashville was cranking out at the time (short of Dwight Yoakam) and the high points confirm the guy who wrote "Guitar Town" had more fine tunes where that came from.

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