Steve Earle's Regime Change Rock
A major article in Mother Jones on Steve Earle's upcoming 'The Revolution Starts...Now'. The interview by David Corn follows Earle into the studio in Nashville for the recording sessions and explores the album's political themes.
"The idea that artists are not supposed to comment on social matters -- like the Dixie Chicks -- is crap," Earle says. "Artists have always been the consciences of their societies. And I don't sing good enough to be an entertainer."
"Warrior," another of the first six songs, is a spoken-word piece about the costs of war, modeled on the prologue of Henry V and set against a Doors-y tune. It's Earle doing Patti Smith doing William Burroughs, in iambic pentameter. ("There are no honorable frays to join/only mean death dealt out in dibs and dabs.") When Earle adds extra guitar tracks to "Warrior", his sole guidance: "this should sound like Neil Young 30-feet tall."
"A POLITICAL ALBUM -- it's a dangerous thing," Earle says. "I may have come into this record with no songs, but I knew what I wanted to say. It's about the war." The trick, Earle maintains, is knowing when to "communicate in human terms" -- that is, telling a story that makes a point -- and when to "communicate in rhetorical terms." The FCC song is definitely an example of the latter. Does singing about political matters -- war, the death penalty, and lousy HMOs -- have any noticeable impact?
"I've had people tell me the stuff I've written has changed their minds on the death penalty." Anyway, he notes, "Pete Seeger said all songs are political; lullabies are political to babies."
On a Music Box review by John Metzger:
"Throughout 'The Revolution Starts...Now' Earle once again exercises his Constitutional right to speak his mind, though he tones down the seething anger that pervaded much of Jerusalem in order to find a more persuasive, humanistic approach to sharing his points of view. As a result, his customarily mighty lyrics are all the sharper for it."
More on Steve Earle, R.E.M., Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Dave Matthews, James Taylor, Pearl Jam, the Dixie Chicks, John Fogerty, John Mellencamp, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, and Neil Young and political songs.