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Steve Earle, ‘I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive’ (New West)

By: David Menconi // April 26, 2011

Like his idol Townes Van Zandt, Steve Earle has made bemused fatalism his milieu. But Earle’s first original set in four years is still a landmark of grimness – even his devotional songs invoke mortality (“I can’t promise anything / Except that my last breath will bear your name”). T-Bone Burnett’s understated production suggests an aqueous atmosphere, with a few actual sea shanties. “This city will never drown,” Earle declares on the album-closing ode to New Orleans. That’s as close to optimistic as it gets.