Chad Orzel posted a super cool mix tape last week with comments (of course, this is Blogcritics) and one of the songs on the tape was Steve Earle’s “I Can Wait.” I was very disappointed with Earle’s latest, Jerusalem, but Chad’s post reminded me how much I love Transcendental Blues from 2000.
100 years from now Steve Earle may be included in the same grade of classic American singer-songwriters as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, and Neil Young. Earle has been recording since 1982, but he has really come into his own in the last eight years. Transcendental Blues is about, well, transcendence, something Earle knows a bit about.
Earle has come to command such diverse styles as bluegrass, roots rock, rockabilly, Texas and Nashville country, folk, Irish music, and on Transcendental he added Beatles-style psychedelic to his repertoire, yet 10 years ago he appeared to be a drugged-out has-been.
After Earle made a big splash with his outlaw country/rockabilly classics Guitar Town and Copperhead Road in the late ’80s, he fell into heroin and cocaine addiction and didn’t record for five years. He had a tremendous personal and musical comeback in ’95 with the acoustic Train A Comin, followed by success after success with I Feel Alright (’96), the Grammy-nominated El Corazon (’97) and The Mountain (’99), and then Transcendental Blues, his finest ever.
Produced by Earle and his partner, the great Ray Kennedy, TB is a tour de force of all of his styles, held together by his strength of conviction, expansive heart, and great songwriting. The album is by turns fierce, sweet, reflective, honest, and very real in its pursuit of transcendence through love (he’s been married six times), music, passion and justice.