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Hard-Core Troubadour: Steve Earle’s Warner Bros. LPs, Unreleased Live Sets Boxed by Shout! Factory

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Earle WBAfter two straight country albums for MCA, Steve Earle made a major breakthrough with 1988’s Copperhead Road, which fused his more roots-oriented stylings with elements of traditional rock and metal. Just as impressive, though, was his late ’90s comeback after a prolonged period of inactivity, drug problems and incarceration.

Three of Earle’s albums from the latter half of that decade are coming back into print in a new box set from Shout! Factory. The Warner Bros. Years collects 1995’s Train A Comin’, 1996’s I Feel Alright and 1997’s El Corazón along with a bonus CD and DVD of unreleased live material.

Earle was on the edge of ruin after a conviction for drug possession that led to a stint in jail to get himself clean. He’d not released a studio album since 1990, and hadn’t gone on tour since 1992. Slowly but surely, he began to tackle his demons through songwriting, finding his skills improving with every step toward recovery. The result, Train A Comin’, was released on the Winter Harvest label in 1995 and soon picked up for wider distribution by Warner Bros. Packing strong originals (“Sometimes She Forgets,” “Goodbye,” “Angel is the Devil”) alongside covers of The Beatles (“I’m Looking Through You”) and Earle’s idol Townes Van Zandt (“Tecumseh” Valley”), Train A Comin’ received high critical marks and a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Folk Album.

The strong albums I Feel Alright and El Corazón followed in the two years after Train A Comin’; they too featured killer cuts like “Feel Alright,” “CCKMP” (a haunting reminder of Earle’s drug past), “Ft. Worth Blues” and “Christmas in Washington.” Guests included Emmylou Harris, Lucinda Williams and the Del McCoury Band.

The Warner Bros. Years closes with two live sets: one on CD from Nashville’s Polk Theater (his first since getting out of jail) and a court-appointed show at Tennessee’s Cold Creek Correctional Facility in 1996. (Neither have been commercially released, although the latter was aired on MTV under the title To Hell and Back.Live At The Polk Theater 1995 features guest appearances by Emmylou Harris and bluegrass legend Bill Monroe, the latter of whom was a surprise even to Earle.

Featuring a booklet with original artwork, a new introduction by Earle and liner notes by David Simon, creator of HBO’s acclaimed The Wire (which made great use of Earle’s songs in its run), The Warner Bros. Years shines a new light on this phase of Earle’s career. It hits stores June 25; pre-orders from the label will receive a copy of the booklet signed by Earle.

Hit the jump for the full specs!

The Warner Bros. Years (Shout! Factory, 2013)

Disc 1: Train A Comin’ (released as Winter Harvest WH 3302-2/Warner Bros. 46355, 1995)

  1. Mystery Train, Part II
  2. Hometown Blues
  3. Sometimes She Forgets
  4. Mercenary Song
  5. Goodbye
  6. Tom Ames’ Prayer
  7. Nothin’ Without You (with Emmylou Harris)
  8. Angel is the Devil
  9. I’m Looking Through You
  10. Northern Winds
  11. Ben McCulloch
  12. Rivers of Babylon
  13. Tecumseh Valley

Disc 2: I Feel Alright (released as E-Squared/Warner Bros. 46201, 1996)

  1. Feel Alright
  2. Hard-Core Troubadour
  3. More Than I Can Do
  4. Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You
  5. Now She’s Gone
  6. Poor Boy
  7. Valentine’s Day
  8. The Unrepentant
  9. CCKMP
  10. Billy and Bonnie
  11. South Nashville Blues
  12. You’re Still Standin’ There (with Lucinda Williams)

Disc 3: El Corazón (released as Warner Bros. 46789, 1997)

  1. Christmas in Washington
  2. Taneytown
  3. If You Fall
  4. I Still Carry You Around (with The Del McCoury Band)
  5. Telephone Road (with The Fairfield Four)
  6. Somewhere Out There
  7. You Know the Rest
  8. N.Y.C. (with The Supersuckers)
  9. Poison Lovers
  10. The Other Side of Town
  11. Here I Am
  12. Fort Worth Blues

Disc 4: Live At The Polk Theater 1995 (previously unreleased)

  1. Mystery Train, Part II
  2. Hometown Blues
  3. The Devil’s Right Hand
  4. Angel is the Devil
  5. The Walls of Time (with Bill Monroe & Peter Rowan)
  6. Sometimes She Forgets
  7. You Know the Rest
  8. I’m Looking Through You
  9. The Rivers of Babylon (with Emmylou Harris)
  10. Goodbye (with Emmylou Harris)
  11. Nothin’ Without You (with Emmylou Harris)
  12. When Will We Be Married
  13. Northern Winds/Ben McCulloch
  14. Copperhead Road

Disc 5: DVD – To Hell and Back: Cold Creek Correctional Facility, Tennessee 1996 (previously unreleased)

  1. Feel Alright
  2. Hard-Core Troubadour
  3. The Devil’s Right Hand
  4. More Than I Can Do
  5. South Nashville Blues
  6. Ellis Unit One
  7. The Unrepentant
  8. Copperhead Road
  9. Guitar Town
  10. It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry

Written by Mike Duquette

April 24, 2013 at 14:50

2 Responses

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  1. Sure would love that live set, but not interested in buying 3 other albums I already own. (One additional note: the Warner version of Train a-Comin’ has a different sequence than the original Winter Harvest version.)


    April 24, 2013 at 20:16

  2. Are these being reissued on vinyl as well, or just CD?

    Jeremy Earle

    April 25, 2013 at 08:15

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