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Washington Square Serenade (DIG)

3.9 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 25, 2007
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

After an extremely rare three year break from recording, Grammy® Award winner Steve Earle is back, with Washington Square Serenade. The album represents a number of firsts for Steve: his first record for New West Records, his first album produced in New York City (now his home), and his first produced by John King of The Dust Brothers (Beck, Beastie Boys) at the legendary Electric Lady Studios. The deluxe CD/DVD version will be available with bonus packaging art plus an exclusive documentary DVD about the inspiration behind the album. The bonus DVD includes 3 acoustic performances, interviews and a walking tour of Greenwich Village with Steve and noted journalist Mark Jacobson. The album will also be available as a Limited Edition 180 gram vinyl record.


The title and opening songs of Washington Square Serenade are as much a celebration of New York City--Steve Earle's newly adopted home--as his breakthrough Guitar Town was an evocation of his previous home in Nashville. In fact, the opening "Tennessee Blues," with its acoustic guitar over a digital rhythm loop, bids "goodbye to Guitar Town," as he leaves with "a redhead by my side." That would be wife Allison Moorer, who harmonizes beautifully with her husband on "Days Aren't Long Enough," written by the two; provides background vocals elsewhere; and plainly inspires "Sparkle and Shine" and the bittersweet "Come Home to Me," two of the album's loveliest songs. The result is a new chapter in Earle's career, an album unlike any he's previously recorded, produced by John King of the Dust Brothers (Beck, Beastie Boys). While the raw, raging blues of "Red Is the Color" ranks with Earle's most powerful music, "Satellite Radio" could well be the slightest (as well as perhaps a plug for Earle's own radio show), but the artist's willingness to take chances attests to a restless creativity that refuses to be corralled. Other noteworthy tracks include the Brazilian-tinged "City of Immigrants," the tribute to Pete Seeger on "Steve's Hammer," and the closing rendition of Tom Waits's "Down in the Hole," which will serve as the theme music for Season 5 of The Wire. --Don McLeese

More from Steve Earle

Guitar Town

Train a Comin'

Copperhead Road

Track Listings

Disc: 1

  1. Tennessee Blues
  2. Down Here Below
  3. Satellite Radio
  4. City Of Immigrants (with Forro In The Dark)
  5. Sparkle And Shine
  6. Come Home to Me
  7. Jericho Road
  8. Oxycontin Blues
  9. Red Is The Color
  10. Steve s Hammer (For Pete)
  11. Day s Aren t Long Enough (with Allison Moorer)
  12. Way Down In The Hole

Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 25, 2007)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: New West Records
  • ASIN: B000UC1Q9C
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #71,474 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ryan Winkleman VINE VOICE on September 25, 2007
Format: Audio CD
It's been 3 years since Steve Earle released a new studio album. In that time, George W. Bush has been reelected, Steve got married again to the beautiful Allison Moorer, and he packed up his Nashville paraphernalia and moved to the city. New York City, to be exact. In fact, if you don't already know it, Steve now resides on the same block so famously pictorially memorialized on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, and it's very clear from listening to him that he takes the spirit of Greenwich Village very seriously and very much to his corazón.

With all that in mind, Steve's new gift to music is Washington Square Serenade, an album of 11 originals and 1 cover. Recorded in the famed Electric Lady studios, the album is different from his others by default, because as he says right in the bonus disc's interviews, he now "tests positive for ProTools." This is immediately apparent from the album's beginning, which has drum beats and samples throughout the 12 tracks. If you can get past the beats, you've got a pretty darn good album ahead of you.

The album begins with Steve's farewell to Nashville, "Tennessee Blues." Personally, I think the acoustic-only version is better (more on that later), but the lyrics are downright beautiful--"Blue dog on my floorboard, redhead by my side, cross the mighty Hudson River to the New York City side. Redhead by my side, boys, sweetest thing I've found. Goodbye, Guitar Town"--and a perfect goodbye to the place he used to call home. Next comes "Down Here Below," a mostly spoken-word song about the resident NYC red-tailed hawk Pale Male that is very reminiscent of the Drive-By Truckers' "A World of Hurt." Steve's voice is hypnotizing on it.
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Format: Audio CD
Only one thing was for certain leading up to the release of the first album of new material from Steve Earle in three years: It would be adorned with the similar eye catching, void of the Earle, cover artwork that has encompassed his CD covers for the last decade. I had several concerns that this could be the beginning of the end for Earle. First was an unprecedented post drug/penal three year hiatus from recording. Second, his last album, "The Revolution Starts Now" left no doubt that Earle's disheartened view of America and its politics had reached its Dante's Peak, which was emphasized by the Jim Morrison like spoken track, "The Warrior." Then there was the pre-publicity leading up to this album. He had transplanted himself to Greenwich Village, married again, this time to fellow singer/songwriter Allison Moorer, and said that at this time in his life, he needed to be able to look out his window and see a same sex, mixed race couple walking down the street holding hands and be ok with that. Not that any of this is good or bad, but just un-Earle like. So it was with apprehension that I gave the CD an initial spin. It took one listen to answer the question that, "ok, he hasn't totally lost his mind." And after a second listen, I realize he has created probably his finest work ever. He hasn't let marriage send his career into the lap-sucking whirlpool of toilet creativity like say, Clint Black did. He obviously has met up with some of the ghosts of Bob Dylan, but is not afraid of them, and he is apparently not quite ready to give up just yet. Tennessee Blues opens the album with a catchy percussion hiccup and clearly states the direction of the album, "goodbye guitar town." Down Here Below is a great metaphoric visual and a masterfully written piece.Read more ›
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Format: Audio CD
Odd. Having followed Earle since the early days, this album shows that Earle has hit a different avenue. His move to NYC is well documented, but it's the affect it's had on the music that is most important. Musically Earle is more mellow here. After the firestorm that was the Revolution album, you had to wonder just where he was going to go. Thankfully it wasn't straight into the burning pit, instead he's veered up into the high atmosphere.

The mellow approach had meant Earles songs could shine, their melody, humor, and celebration can shine through. This isn't just another Earle album, there's definately something new going on here.

I won't run through all the tracks, it's a record that deserves to be heard all the way through. However, personally speaking, there is only one hole in the record, one track I wish I could tear out. So, City Of Immigrants was a single huh? Ouch! I'm not getting on with that very much, its message is far too simplistic for me, and the chorus is just annoying.

Thankfully, everything around it is just wonderful. This is the first Earle album I can honestly say can be played any time of the night and day. I've played it at 2 in the morning and at 6... it works.

You know, this is certainly the best Earle album for a long time - which is not to say what he's been doing has been poor. This is a mature record with a wave of contentment over top. It's fun, beautiful, and your foot taps. What more do you want?
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Format: Audio CD
It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to the release of Steve Earle's new album, Washington Square Serenade. After the first listen, I was initially disappointed, but subsequent listenings revealed more in the lyrics and music to make this project strike a resounding chord with me.

The album opens up with the track "Tennessee Blues", a sort of retrospective and look forward to the future at the same time. It's a solid opener. The CD quickly changes gears, moving on to "Down Here Below", a foot tapping tale of Steve's experiences and exploits in his new hometown. It's a masterful piece of songwriting from Earle, with excellent instrumentation and backing vocals from Alison Moorer.

The next track, "Satellite Radio", isn't as successful. It's got a driving beat, but the melody seems to drone on and on, never changing from the one or two notes that repeat throughout the song. Thankfully, the outstanding "City of Immigrants" appears next. This is the song Steve has been performing on various programs to promote Washington Square Serenade, and that was a good choice on his part, as it's one of the highlights of this album. Forro in the Dark provides excellent backing music.

Unfortunately, the next two tracks often sound boring and repetitive enough to lull you to sleep. But, no worries! "Jericho Road" is next, an outstanding track that sounds just like classic Earle. Well written, with a pounding beat and wailing harp.

But, following "Jericho Road" is, what I think, is the best track of the whole album. The "Oxycontin Blues".
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