Fifteen albums in, Steve Earle is still at the top of his game. This time around, he brings his fantastic live band - Chris Masterson, Eleanor Whitmore, Kelley Looney, Will Rigby and Allison Moorer - into the studio, and this energizes the revered Americana musician. The tunes are lively, soulful and diverse, each with Earle's Texas drawl and trademark poetic storytelling in the foreground.
The sought-after producer (and Treme actor) makes interesting production choices: the doubled vocals in the chorus of melancholy Invisible, the space-echoed singing on country rocker Calico County. That All You Got? proves modern blues-rock doesn't have to be cheesy, while Love's Gonna Blow My Way would be a saccharine ditty in a less gritty musician's hands. Warren Hellman's Banjo, meanwhile, is straight-up old-school bluegrass.
Lyrically, life on the road is the focus, though Earle's still plenty indignant about the state of America, most notably on 21st Century Blues.
Top track: Calico County