Washington Square Serenade

Don’t expect to pick right up on the acrid leftist dogma of 2004’s The Revolution
Starts … Now
. The new Steve Earle album, Washington Square Serenade (New West), finds the singer’s head in a completely different place. Relocated to NYC and happily wed to singer Allison Moorer (marriage number seven, if you’re keeping score at home), the Schertz-raised musician is finally conquering some of
his demons. Relieved to have left Nashville for less hostile political waters, Earle seems to draw strength and even contentment from New York. “Down Here Below,” a masterful everything-changes-but-life-goes-on tribute to the city, begins with a hawk “from the tip-top of the food chain” surveying Central Park and thinking, “God, I love this town.” Earle’s life has been famously messy, and his politics are too ingrained for him to abandon them, but this is a songwriter’s record; the emphasis is not so much on what he says but how he says it. There are love songs, duets, a Tom Waits cover (the latest theme to HBO’s The Wire ; Earle also acts in the show), and a telling promise: “One of these days I’m gonna lay this hammer down.”

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