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New York City has long been more than America's biggest and most fabled city -- it's a place that symbolizes fresh starts and new opportunities, and there are scores of songs and stories about folks pulling up roots and heading to the Big Apple in search of a better and more exciting life. Steve Earle wrote one such song on his 1997 album El Corazón, "NYC," in which a nervy kid from Tennessee hitchhikes to Manhattan because "there must be something happening, it's just too big a town," and a decade later Earle followed him, moving to New York to escape Red State malaise. Washington Square Serenade, Earle's 12th studio album and first in three years, deals in part with the sights and sounds of his new hometown, from the red-tailed hawk that lives in Central Park ("Down Here Below") to the multilingual chatter of the streets ("City of Immigrants"), while also taking a look back at the home he left behind on tunes like "Oxycontin Blues," "Red Is the Color," and "Jericho Road." While there's a strength in the familiar textures of the songs where Earle remembers Tennessee, there's a welcome sense of rejuvenation in the album's first half as he shares the details of his adventures in New York (which also includes a new bride, Allison Moorer, who lends lovely backing vocals to these sessions and is the presumable inspiration for "Sparkle and Shine" and "Days Aren't Long Enough"), and the expressionistic imagery of "Down Here Below" and "Satellite Radio" works beautifully in this context. After producing his last few album himself, Earle turned those chores over to Dust Brother John King for Washington Square Serenade, and King brings a welcome collision of the traditional and the contemporary to the music, facing scratchy drum loops against mandolins and dobros while letting a folky simplicity carry the day when it best suits the song, and the sound is crisp and forceful throughout. Washington Square Serenade ultimately sounds a bit less focused than its immediate predecessors, the politically minded Jerusalem and The Revolution Starts...Now (despite the presence of "Red Is the Color" and "Steve's Hammer"), but it also finds Earle trying out some new tricks both as a performer and a songwriter, and it's exciting and encouraging to hear him exploring fresh turf after two decades of record-making, and there's lots of fine music to be had on this set.
|Label:||New West Records|
Performance CreditsSteve Earle Primary Artist,Banjo
Marty Beller Drums
John Medeski Organ,Harmonium,Electric Piano,Mellotron
Smokey Hormel Guitar (Baritone),Group Member
John King Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Mauro Refosco Zabumba,Group Member
Allison Moorer Vocals
Patrick Earle Percussion,Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Josh Wilbur Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Jeremy Chatzky Electric Bass,Acoustic Bass
Jorge Continentino Bamboo Flute,Group Member
John Spiker Electric Bass
Charlie Stavish Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Paul Bannister Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Downtown Proletariat Choir Background Vocals
Collin Hart Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Noah Goldstein Background Vocals,Choir, Chorus
Petey Background Vocals
Lee Foster Background Vocals
Davi Viera Triangle
Technical CreditsSteve Earle Composer
Tom Waits Composer
John King Producer,Audio Production
Allison Moorer Composer
Patrick Earle Logistics
Josh Wilbur Engineer
Tony Fitzpatrick Cover Art
Tom Camuso Engineer
John Spiker Programming
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Washington Square Serenade based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
It has been very difficult to find a record in the past 10 years that you don't want to fast forward to the next track after about 10 seconds of listening to mindless lyrics or vacant melodies. With Steve's latest release, I found myself fast forwarding to see if the next track could be as good as the previous one. Too many great tracks to even start naming. I am a big Bruce fan, but I have not seen this amount of inspiration and musical diversity since Darkness on the Edge of Town. BUY IT!
A lot of lyrics and tunes cribbed from some of his other great CD's but not a great song in the bunch - and a couple real bad ones.
This album was recommended to me by a friend who thought I would like it. I had somehow gone through life so far and never really listened to Steve Earle before. Let me just say, I was pleasantly surprised by its fresh sound and songwriting right off the bat. And as I have listened to it now countless times (probably at least once a week), I am completely impressed by its diversity of songs, sounds, and singing. I anticipate each song as I listen to it in its entirety every time. It's hard to pick out favorites above others, but if I had to pick three--let's make that five--favorites, they would be "Guitar Town", "Down Here Below", "City of Immigrants", "Sparkle and Shine", "Come Home to Me", "Red is the Color", "Steve's Hammer (for Pete)", and "Days Aren't Long Enough". Wait, I think that was actually nine songs. Oops. Have a listen and you will see what I mean; it's just that good of an album to have to pick favorites.
I know the other reviewers are hard-core Steve Earle fans, but give the guy some latitude to write a different kind of album! This album is awesome, and just like a lot of Steve Earle's stuff, his innate command of the songwriting craft serves his needs very well. This is a great album to introduce people to SE's work. Personally, I'd put this alongside any of his other works, and his ability to make catchy melodies with lyrics that actually mean something means he is a rarity in the current music scene. Rock On, SE! Keep doin' whatever kind of albums you want!
Like the other reviews, this is not his best effort, but there are certainly no bad songs, and a couple of really good ones. Earle's lyrics are as much a part of his songs as the music....listen to the messages....they are still there.
Quite a downer after 3 years of no music. Steve seems to have gone down the same road as Tom Petty and Joe Doe - mid-tempo, more mid-tempo with some slow stuff thrown in.