Archive for Steve Earle

Great Rock Albums of 1988: Steve Earle- Copperhead Road

Posted in 1980s, Heavy Metal, Music, Rock, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2022 by 80smetalman

Originally, I was going to post “Copperhead Road” by Steve Earle as a rock/metal album. The title cut of the album was my reason for it. I loved Steve’s image when I saw the video on television and the song proved that other instruments can be effectively included in hard rock and even metal. In this case, it was a mandolin. The song starts out with the mandolin and steel guitar and pedals giving it a country feel but then the guitar kicks in and takes it to a whole different level. The song itself is about a family of generations of moonshine makers and runners but the subject of the song, after he returns from Vietnam, decided to go into the weed farming business. It’s an excellent song.

Of course there are other great tracks on the album, although I have to agree with those who say that the first side of the album is better than the second. “Snake Oil” has a honky tonk piano combined with more great guitar riffs at the same time and talks about sitting president Ronald Reagan as a snake oil salesman. I agree with that sentiment. But Steve goes totally hard rock with the hidden gem on the album, “Back to the Wall.” It has a Tom Petty feel reminiscent of the “Damn the Torpedoes” album. There are some great guitar hooks on it and the best guitar solo on the album.

“The Devil’s Right Hand” is ahead of it’s time in the political music sense. The devil in the right hand Steve sings about is a pistol and this could be the first anti-gun song ever! Steve goes back to the returning veterans theme on “Johnny Come Lately.” In the song he contrasts how Americans treated servicemen returning home from World War II as opposed to Vietnam. It’s done to some great rockabilly music. My question is: Did Steve’s grandfather actually marry an English woman and bring her back home? Irish Celtic rock band The Pogues accompany him on this song.

As I said earlier, the second half of “Copperhead Road” isn’t as strong as the first half, although it’s by no means weak. The songs are less political and more love songs. I have no problem with that as they are done right. “Even When I’m Blue” sounds more like later Tom Petty and is some more good rockabilly. “You Belong to Me” sounds familiar but I can’t quite pick out the influence here. It’s a steady rocker with some good acoustic guitar as are the next two tracks. Things end with the rather tender ballad, “Nothing But a Child.”

Track Listing:

  1. Copperhead Road
  2. Snake Oil
  3. Back to the Wall
  4. The Devil’s Right Hand
  5. Johnny Come Lately
  6. Even When I’m Blue
  7. You Belong to Me
  8. Waiting On You
  9. Once You Love
  10. Nothing But a Child
Steve Earle

Steve Earle- lead vocals, guitar, mandolin, harmonica, 6 string bass

Danny Roberts- guitar, 6 string bass

Bill Lloyd- acoustic guitar, 12 string electric guitar

Bucky Baxter- pedal steel, lap steel, Dobro

Ken Moore- synthesizer, organ

John Barlow Jarvis- piano

Kelly Looney- bass

Kurt Custer- drums

Neil MacColl- mandolin on “Johnny Come Lately”

John Cowan, Maria MaKee, Radney Foster- backing vocals

Shane MacGowan- banjo, bodran

Daryl Hunt- bass

Andrew Ranken- drums

The Pogues on “Johnny Come Lately”

Telluride on “Nothing But a Child”

Here’s an amusing anecdote, I named a character in my second book, “He Was Weird,” after one from the title track. There is a John Peddlemore in the story. “Copperhead Road” further proved that there was lots of great alternative music out there and this was one American act I was glad came to Britain.

Next post: A Joint Effort

To buy Rock and Roll Children, email me at: tobychainsaw@hotmail.com

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