365 Days of Album Recommendations – Sep 9

Steve Earle – Train a Comin’

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Whether Steve Earle is or isn’t actually channeling his mentor Townes Van Zandt or not on this record is really not relevant to my sense of the discussion that I have in my head about it … I personally don’t think he is. I think he’s just delivering an excellent album that ranks as some of his best work. I don’t really dig his Copperhead Road sound, personally. Too bar-bandy for my taste; the grooves are all too square. Reminds me too much of the Springsteen shit I don’t like either.

I dig this shit.

I think Ben McCulloch is as good as a story song as can be found:

We signed up in San Antone, my brother Paul and me
To fight with Ben McCulloch and the Texas infantry
Well the poster said we’d get a uniform and seven bucks a week
The best rations in the army and a rifle we could keep

When I first laid eyes on the general I knew he was a fightin’ man
He was every inch a soldier, every word was his command
Well his eyes were cold as the lead and steel forged into tools of war
He took the lives of many and the souls of many more

Well they marched us to Missouri and we hardly stopped for rest
And then he made this speech and said, “We’re comin’ to the test”
Well we’ve got to take Saint Louie boys before the Yankees do
If we control the Mississippi then the Federals are through

Well they told us that our enemy would all be dressed in blue
Well they forgot about the winter’s cold and the cursed fever too
My brother died at Wilson’s Creek and Lord I seen him fall
We fell back to the Boston Mountains in the north of Arkansas

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you’ll be a foot soldier just like me
In the Devil’s infantry

And on the way to Fayetteville we cursed McCulloch’s name
And mourned the dead that we’d left behind and we was carrying the lame
I killed a boy the other night who’d never even shaved
I don’t even know what I’m fightin’ for, I ain’t never owned a slave
So I snuck out of camp and then I heard the news next night
The Yankees won the battle and McCulloch lost his life, yeh

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you’ll be a foot soldier just like me
In the Devil’s infantry

We signed up in San Antone, my brother Paul and me
To fight with Ben McCulloch and the Texas infantry
Well the poster said we’d get a uniform and seven bucks a week
The best rations in the army and a rifle we could keep

When I first laid eyes on the general I knew he was a fightin’ man
He was every inch a soldier, every word was his command
Well his eyes were cold as the lead and steel forged into tools of war
He took the lives of many and the souls of many more

Well they marched us to Missouri and we hardly stopped for rest
And then he made this speech and said, “We’re comin’ to the test”
Well we’ve got to take Saint Louie boys before the Yankees do
If we control the Mississippi then the Federals are through

Well they told us that our enemy would all be dressed in blue
Well they forgot about the winter’s cold and the cursed fever too
My brother died at Wilson’s Creek and Lord I seen him fall
We fell back to the Boston Mountains in the north of Arkansas

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you’ll be a foot soldier just like me
In the Devil’s infantry

And on the way to Fayetteville we cursed McCulloch’s name
And mourned the dead that we’d left behind and we was carrying the lame
I killed a boy the other night who’d never even shaved
I don’t even know what I’m fightin’ for, I ain’t never owned a slave
So I snuck out of camp and then I heard the news next night
The Yankees won the battle and McCulloch lost his life, yeh

Goddamn you Ben McCulloch
I hate you more than any other man alive
And when you die you’ll be a foot soldier just like me
In the Devil’s infantry

I even like the album’s biggest risk; honestly, these guys shouldn’t be recording Rivers of Babylon. But somehow, it’s fucking charming.

Norman Blake on Northern Winds? Please. It’s fucking gorgeous.

Where he does take on Townes, he does a pretty fucking credible version. Tecumseh Valley is a tough cover.

What I don’t like is “I’m Looking Through You.” It was a fucking shitty song to begin with, and it sounds shitty here. It’s the album’s one flaw. But that’s fine. Make a playlist, take that track off, and you’ve got an amazing fucking album. Just my two cents, of course …


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