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Steve Earle still rocking political speech

Steve Earle
April 06, 2005 - Steve Earle admits he normally would take more time to record a CD than he did with his latest release, "The Revolution Starts ... Now."

But because he wanted to get the politically charged album out well before the November presidential election, he put himself under a strict deadline to have it in stores by Sept. 16 — a deadline he actually beat by three weeks.

The fast timeline, though, turned out to be an asset for the new music.

"We literally finished (touring) in Aus-tralia in April and started recording the second week in May," Earle said. "To make a record I normally would want more time, but it turned out to be exactly the right thing for this record. It feels real in the moment and real immediate, and I think that kind of helps these songs."

The urgency of which Earle speaks is obvious both in the words and the performances on "The Revolution Starts ... Now."

Recorded with his stellar backing band, the Dukes, the songs crackle with energy and grit. Full-tilt rockers like the title song rock as fiercely as anything Earle has committed to album. Even the CD's country-fied material, such as "Rich Man's War," "Home to Houston" and "The Gringo's Tale" possess an edge that often escapes material played in the largely acoustic setting of the songs.

The agitated feel of the music makes sense given the political tone of the album. Several songs, including "Rich Man's War," "Home to Houston" and "The Gringo's Tale," assail the motives and the human costs of war, specifically the Iraq war.

Asked to sum up his opposition to the Iraq war, this is what Earle had to say:

"It's based on racism and it's based on a lie, a lot of lies, but the big lie is there is correlation between Sept. 11 and attacking Iraq," said Earle, a strong critic of the Bush Administration and the fundamentalist philosophy he believes the president follows. "Those are the moral reasons, beside the fact that war (in general) is immoral.

"That being said, when it just gets down to policy and being responsible, I don't think you're going to be able to find many Iraqi citizens who don't think their lives were better before we attacked Iraq. The average Iraqi, whether he's Sunni or Shiite, had no more contact with Saddam Hussein than I do with George W. Bush on a day-in, day-out basis. You can't tell me their lives are better now, now that we've completely destroyed the country,'' he added.

The Bush Administration, though, isn't the only target on "The Revolution Starts ... Now." The title song is a pointed attack on apathy from the 49-year-old native of Schertz, Texas.

"What the song's about is the fact that the revolution goes on with or without us," Earle said, laying much of the blame for the state of the country on baby boomers. "I think the very generation that stopped the Vietnam War basically went to sleep. You know, we got older and started having kids, and we raised a generation of kids that while they were growing up, didn't see us being politically involved. And you know, so I hate to say it, we have the president of the United States that we deserve. It had to happen eventually. We surrendered the playing field."

"The Revolution Starts ... Now," though, is not without its lighter and tender mo-ments. "Comin' Around" is a sweet duet with Emmylou Harris where the search ends for that partner who convinces a restless heart that it's the time and place to settle down.

For a few laughs, look no further than "Condi Condi," a lustful ode to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

"I mean, what can I say, I think she's kind of hot," Earle said.

The controversial, opinionated material on "The Revolution Starts ... Now," of course, is nothing new for Earle, who's made a habit of stirring things up ever since he came onto the national scene with the classic album, "Guitar Town," in 1986.

Over the years, Earle has railed against the death penalty with tunes like "Over Yon-der (Jonathan's Song)." On his preceding album, "Jerusalem," Earle ignited a storm of controversy with the song "John Walker Blues," in which Earle sought to humanize John Walker Lindh and understand why this so-called "American Taliban" aligned himself with that terror group.

"The Revolution Starts ... Now" initially was portrayed as an anti-Bush, election-related album. Earle, though, said he's al-ways considered it an anti-war album, and as such feels it remains timely even though the election is over. And he continues to believe music can rally people behind a cause and change government policies.

"I base that on the fact that I lost count years ago of people who came up to me and said: 'That song you wrote changed my mind about the death penalty,'" Earle re-called. "And there is no more divisive emo-tional issue than that. So yeah, I believe music can change the world."

Steve Earle plays today — April 7 — at the Pageant, 6161 Delmar Blvd. Tickets for the 8 p.m. show cost $25 for reserved balcony and $20 for general admission.

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