Steve Earle – Washington Square Serenade

{mosimage}In his long career, Steve Earle has never played safe. Every new album adds a risky and unexpected element, either if that is the punk rock of the Supersuckers, the bluegrass of the Del McCoury band or the political protest of his previous albums Jerusalem (2002) and The Revolution Starts Now (2004).

This trend is not different with his latest release, Washington Square Serenade. Earle invited Dust Brother John King to produce the album. Yes, one of the producers behind Beastie BoysPaul’s Boutique and Beck’s Odelay.

With John King behind the controls, Washington Square Serenade presents an array of contemporary sounds that collide with Earle’s traditional songwriting. Many hardcore fans might get annoyed by the samples and drum loops on top of Steve’s folkie guitar and harmonica, or the mandolins and the dobros.

But this production should not scare anyone. It’s the same old Steve Earle, anyway, and he offers a bunch of good songs whether he stays behind traditional sounds like Jericho Road  or he raps on top of drum loops like in Satellite Radio.

As usual, there is a duet with a female voice. After Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and Stacey Earle, it was the time for Steve’s new wife, singer Allison Moorer, to be featured in the traditional duet that Earle includes in his albums.

Closing this new album is the cover that the singer did of Tom WaitsWay Down in the Hole as the theme song of the last season of the series The Wire, where Steve Earle did a little acting too. This version fully embraces hip hop and it feels more like a bonus track that part of the beautiful poem to New York that is Washington Square Serenade as a whole.

Rating 4/5