STEVE EARLE Jerusalem (Artemis) Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Judging by the pre-release furor in everything from the New York Times to the U.S. Congress, you'd think Steve Earle had embraced the Taliban, become a communist and pissed on the American flag. Not exactly, but close. Jerusalem is Earle's state of the union address, complete with a rant about the need for agitation in a country's darkest hour. The obvious flashpoint is John Walker's Blues, Earle's bold attempt to get into the mind of the American Taliban, but Earle hits even harder on songs like Amerika v. 6.0, Conspiracy Theory and Ashes To Ashes, with its kicker, "every tower built tumbles." The music is subdued and Earle's voice rarely raises beyond a snarl as he probes into the contradictions of American society. He loses steam toward the end, and brings in Emmylou Harris for a standard broken-heart tune, but Jerusalem remains a blowtorch in comparison to Bruce Springsteen's flag-waving from the bunker.