Steve Earle was one of rock's few dissenting voices in the aftermath of 9/11. While many artists were content to peddle jingoistic anthems (and many more simply avoided the topic altogether), Earle offered up Jerusalem, a discomforting snapshot of a country in chaos, wherein the roots-rock maverick struggled with the deeper implications of the terrorist attacks. Earle stirred up more controversy than thoughtful discourse, however, thanks to the widely misunderstood "John Walker's Blues," his humanizing take on American-turned-Taliban scapegoat John Walker Lindh.
That hasn't deterred Earle from following up with an even more potent polemic. Given its fiery political tone, The Revolution Starts ... Now will inevitably be judged against its predecessor, but Jerusalem arose from 9/11's lingering shellshock, a fact that likely kept Earle from arriving at any clear-cut answers. Revolution, on the other hand, benefits from distance and time. Earle points out in the liner notes that the album was recorded in the wake of the 9/11 commission hearings and the news of Iraqi prisoner abuse, as well as the forthcoming election. As a result, his initial confusion and heartache have given way to a singularly focused rage.
Guess where it's aimed. Earle cuts a wide swath through the current state of our nation, condemning the war in Iraq ("Rich Man's War") and the US oil interests motivating it ("Home to Houston"), as well as the corporate media ("F the CC") and Condoleezza Rice (the satirical, Caribbean-flavored come-on "Condi, Condi"). Yet, as if to say there's still a place for beauty amidst all this ugliness, Earle also gives us "Comin' Around," a touching love song performed with Emmylou Harris. And Bush-bashing aside, Revolution is ultimately a call to action. The implicit message here: The best way to preserve our freedom is to participate in the democracy it affords us, regardless of which side you're on. Start now.
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