Anyone who figured that Steve Earle's triumphant return to form on I Feel Alight was either a fluke or a burst of second wind attributable to his return to health got the message that Earle was back to stay with 1997's El Corazón. El Corazón isn't as consistently strong as I Feel Alright and lacks a bit of that album's thematic unity, but the high points connect just as powerfully, and the album kicks off with a tremendous one-two punch, the rousing acoustic ballad "Christmas in Washington" and "Taneytown," a harrowing story of race and violence backed with gale-force electric guitars. El Corazón is also a good bit more eclectic than much of Earle's previous work, dipping into bluegrass ("You Know the Rest," featuring backing from the Del McCoury Band), old-school country ("The Other Side of Town"), hard rock ("N.Y.C.," co-starring the Supersuckers, and "Here I Am"), and vintage R&B ("Telephone Road"). As its title suggests, El Corazón often deals with matters of the heart, expressed with particular eloquence on "Poison Lovers" and "If You Fall," though the song's most emotionally resonant moment comes with its closing song, "Ft. Worth Blues," a moving farewell to Earle's longtime friend and mentor Townes Van Zandt. Earle co-produced El Corazón with frequent studio partner Ray Kennedy, and the record sounds superb, with the vocals rich and the guitars potent, confirming that Earle is the best judge of his own recorded work. El Corazón isn't the instant classic that I Feel Alright was, but it's more than good enough to show that Earle was a major talent not about to go away, and it ranks with his most vital work.
El Corazón Review
by Mark Deming
|2||Steve Earle feat: Emmylou Harris||05:13||Amazon|
|4||Steve Earle feat: The Del McCoury Band / Del McCoury||02:45|
|5||Steve Earle feat: The Fairfield Four||03:42|
|8||Steve Earle feat: Supersuckers||03:37||Amazon|