Earle is a country-rock renaissance man these days, with bit parts in HBO series and a new novel on the way. But there's little evidence here of a waning commitment to the day job. A fiery indignation still underpins that sandpaper rasp of a voice: "Little Emperor" bids a snappy (if belated) bluegrass adieu to Bush Jr; "The Gulf of Mexico" blends celtic folk and down-home stylings to address the BP oil spill. Earle's populist touch sometimes takes him into mawkish territory, and his junkyard blues can't match the compelling strangeness of Tom Waits, but for raw charisma, he more than holds his own.
Ally Carnwath writes on Africa and music for the Guardian and Observer