That he always sang before
He's the last of the hardcore troubadours
Tropes associated with Steve Earle and his works:
- Alternative Country: One of the Trope Codifiers.
- Ascended Fanboy: As a teenager, he spent a lot of time trying to become Townes Van Zandt. He had to settle for becoming a friend of Townes (and naming his son after him)."Townes van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that."
- To which Townes himself replied "I've met Dylan's body guards, and I wouldn't recommend it."
- Bowdlerize: "Guitar Town" had "37 dollars and a Jap guitar" changed to "cheap guitar" on the radio edit.
- Cluster F-Bomb: "F The CC"
- Cover Album: Townes consists entirely of Townes Van Zandt songs.
- Drugs Are Bad: "CCKMP"note seems to be this until the final verse.Heroin's the only thingThe only gift that darkness bringsGuess you best leave me alone...
- Everything's Louder With Bagpipes: "Copperhead Road"
- For the Evulz: Deconstructed in "Billy Austin".The kid done like I told him, he lay face down on the floorGuess I'll never know what made me turn and walk back through that doorThe shot rang out like thunder, my ears rang like a bellNo one came runnin' so I called the cops myselfTook their time to get there and I guess I coulda runI knew I should be feeling something but I never she'd tear oneI didn't even make the papers 'cause I only killed one man...
- The Gunfighter Wannabe: "Devil's Right Hand"
- He's Back: The title track from I Feel Alright, his first full-band album after quitting drugs, is entirely this.Now some of you would live through me, lock me up and throw away the keyOr just find a place to hide away, hope that I'll just go away - HAH!I feel alright, I feel alright tonight
- Hillbilly Moonshiner: The grandfather in "Copperhead Road".
- It Runs in the Family: "Copperhead Road" is the story of three generations of modern outlaws - the grandfather was a Hillbilly Moonshiner, the father smuggled whiskey, and the son is a Vietnam vet growing marijuana.
- Kangaroo Court: "Justice in Ontario":It was down in London, they were triedAnd the guilty man stood free outsideWhen he took the stand to pay his debtThe judge was blind and the jury deaf
- Last Note Hilarity: "Snake Oil" ends with "I knew there was a first-taker on this album somewhere".
- Like a Badass out of Hell: "The Unrepentant"
- Narrator All Along: "Johnny-Come-Lately" seems like it's an American GI in London recounting how he met his wife during the Blitz; the final verse reveals it's his grandson remembering the story as he returns from Vietnam to no fanfare whatsoever.
- One Riot, One Ranger: "Justice in Ontario"It was the local police who made the call.
They said "Send us Corporal Terry Hall."
- Prayer Is a Last Resort: Subverted in "Tom Ames' Prayer", about a bankrobber who finds himself "trapped in an alley in Abilene with all but four shells spent" and turns to God for the first time in his life... only to wind up bragging at length about that time he saved himself from hanging and concluding:"Yeah, but who the hell am I talkin' to, there ain't no one here but me."
- Protest Song: Many, ranging from the Anvilicious to Tear Jerker, occasionally even in the same song. Topics include:
- The death penalty: "Billy Austin", Ellis Unit One", "Over Yonder"
- The war on terrorism: "John Walker's Blues", "Rich Man's War"
- Corporate America: "Amerika v6.0", "Christmastime In Washington", "The Revolution Starts Now"
- Immigration: "City Of Immigrants"
- Real Song Theme Tune: His Cover Version of Tom Waits' "Down In The Hole" is used for the fifth season of The Wire.
- Record Producer: He and Ray Kennedy (who had a hit in 1991 with "What a Way to Go") produce for himself and others as "Twang Trust".
- Returning War Vet: "Johnny Come Lately"
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: "Copperhead Road".Now the DEA's got a chopper in the air, I wake up screaming like I'm back over there.
- Small Town Boredom: Shows up in a few of his songs, most notably "Someday".They ask me how far into Memphis, son, and where's the nearest beerAnd they don't even know that there's a town around here.
- Two-Hit Wonder: "Guitar Town" and "Goodbye's All We've Got Left" were his only Top 10 hits at country.
- The Vietnam War: The narrator of "Copperhead Road" did two tours of duty in Vietnam.