Texas troubadour Steve Earle always wears his convictions on his sleeve, but there’s a smoldering defiance to his latest outing that sets it apart from, say, the fiery revelations of 2002’s controversial Jerusalem. Produced by T-Bone Burnett with a stellar backing band of session heavies, Alive is notable for two songs that pay tribute to New Orleans, “The Gulf of Mexico” and “This City,” so it’s only fitting that Roland Guerin—a fixture on the NOLA scene and a regular with jazz pianist Marcus Roberts—gets a turn here on upright bass. He’s joined by Burnett’s go-to gut-puller Dennis Crouch, whose steady stroke anchors the barrelhouse opener “Waitin’ on the Sky” and the devilby- night “Meet Me in the Alleyway,” which seems destined for an episode of True Blood any day now.
Jimmy Earl: Jimmy Earl & Stratosphere [Severn Record]
Sometimes a great player can have it all—tone, chops, groove, luck, personality, high-profile gigs—and still remain under the radar.