By David Werther.
Steve Earle, I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West Records, 2011)
Steve Earle is a singer-songwriter who owns the crossroads of country and rock, a record producer (Joan Baez's Day After Tomorrow), novelist, three-time Grammy winner, and actor (the character of Walon in HBO's The Wire). His novel and recent CD share the title of Hank Williams' last single, and the theme of mortality.
In his liner notes, he writes, "This disc/file/whatever (as well as the book… ) are, no doubt, the only art that I could have possibly made as I attempted to glean any lessons from the last days of my Father's life that I can apply to whatever is left of mine."
Judging from this set of finely crafted songs, the son gained not a few insights from his father in matters of hard work and humility. In "The Wanderer," Earle envisions himself as an unemployed laborer whose sign reads "will work for dignity, trust and respect." What matters most is not the paycheck but the chance to earn one and (cf. "The Gulf of Mexico") provide for one's family.
A necessary condition for having humility is recognizing what one really is, reconstituted "humus," the work of a gracious creator. With "God is God" Earle says it as simply as possible: "God is God" and "God ain't us." That song, "God is God," and another, "Little Emperor," are polar opposites. The latter portrays a confident character who is out to conquer the world, but perhaps in for a surprise on the judgment day. In contrast, the narrator of "God is God" hopes that he might "get it right" but claims no deep insights into the one he addresses as "God of my little understanding."
Steve Earle’s humility becomes him and enriches us.