Steve Earle Transcendental Blues

Steve's post-detox string of terrific LPs is still intact. Transcendental Blues is another winner from start to finish. After the all bluegrass affair with the Del McCoury Band on The Mountain, Steve's returned to the basic game plan he used on El Corazón - a little bit of this and little bit of that, and a shit load of great songs. "Everyone's In Love With You" brings some Beatle-y psych-pop to the table, complete with backward tape effects, while "I Can Wait" also conjures the Fabs but in more of a "And I Love Her" vein. About a third of the way in, with "Steve's Last Ramble," an acoustic mix of Irish and bluegrass, things really take off. From there on out, he mixes acoustic, electric, rock, folk, country and bluegrass into an amazingly vital hybrid. And that's what makes him so good; he smears the lines between genres until they're obliterated and all that's left is great music. Sister Stacey drops by to duet on "When I Fall" and Tim O'Brien and Darrell Scott of the Bluegrass Dukes add wonderful harmonies to "Until The Day I Die." The disc closes with the staggering one-two punch of "All Of My Life" and "Over Yonder (Jonathan's Song)." The former is a stomping, distorted, steel hard rocker and the latter gentle and acoustic. Both are statements of strength, though of very different kinds. I don't know if having been to hell and back has anything to do with it, but since his return Steve Earle has been making music more heartfelt and moving than just about anyone else out there. And this is more of it. (Artemis)