The only surprising thing about Earle making a blues album - given he's done rock, country, folk and bluegrass - is that it took him so long.
As a Texan where the tough electric players and Lightnin' Hopkins' back porch acoustic style came from, blues was certainly in his blood. And these songs - many written while backpacking around Europe by himself, presumably after the break-up of his most recent marriage - are within the broad landscape of blues.
Watch Steve Earle and the Dukes perform You're the Best Lover That I Ever Had:
You could imagine Ol' Lightnin' doing You're the Best Lover That I Ever Had, and the brooding, raw electric Tennessee Kid here conjures up Dylan, Beat poets and the spook-spirit of Robert Johnson - who wrote Terraplane Blues - as Earle sings of one who makes a pact with the devil.
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It, the gritty King of the Blues and the bleak break-up song Better Off Alone, are the best among the 11 here.
But Baby Baby Baby, Ain't Nobody's Daddy Now and The Usual Time are little more than genre pieces riding familiar blues grooves.
A patchy collection exploring different styles of blues that will nonetheless appeal to Earle loyalists, but leave casual listeners indifferent.
Artist: Steve Earle and the Dukes
Label: New West/Warners
Verdict: Uneven outing from one who's earned the right to sing the blues