by Steve Earle

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It may be a between-albums stopgap, but Steve Earle's Sidetracks is destined to be on a lot of year-end best-of lists. It collects several songs Earle wrote for film: "Some Dreams" from The Rookie, "Me and the Eagle" from The Horse Whisperer, "Open Your Window" from Pay It Forward


It may be a between-albums stopgap, but Steve Earle's Sidetracks is destined to be on a lot of year-end best-of lists. It collects several songs Earle wrote for film: "Some Dreams" from The Rookie, "Me and the Eagle" from The Horse Whisperer, "Open Your Window" from Pay It Forward, and an alternate take of "Ellis Unit One" from Dead Man Walking, featuring gospel greats the Fairfield Four on backing vocals. From the Transcendental Blues sessions comes the previously unreleased gem "Dominick St.," an infectious jig with Sharon Shannon on accordion. Earle has always experimented with his choice of cover tunes, and the selection here is impressive. He delves into reggae on a version of the Slickers' Harder They Come contribution, "Johnny Too Bad," which Earle recorded with the V-Roys. Elsewhere, he delivers a torrid take on Nirvana's "Breed" and an aggressive rendering of the Chambers Brothers' '60s classic "Time Has Come Today," which features a searing vocal from a gravel-voiced Sheryl Crow along with snippets from Abbie Hoffman's antiestablishment rants. Best of all is his version of Dylan's "My Back Pages." Apparently, Earle's strained, urgent vocal was intended as a "scratch" or guide vocal for a duet by Joan Osborne and Jackson Browne to be used in a film that never materialized. Fortunately, the tape was saved, and it lends this soulful collection a resonant, vibrant finale.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
In his liner notes to Sidetracks, Steve Earle writes the following: "With the exception of the instrumentals...these (songs) are not outtakes. They are, rather, stray tracks, recorded at different times for different reasons that I am very proud of and are either unreleased or underexposed." In other words, Earle would appreciate it if you didn't call this another odds-and-sods collection and, given the consistent strength of his post-recovery body of work, he has every right to feel that way about this material. Sidetracks doesn't hold together with the cohesion of albums like I Feel Alright or The Mountain, but nothing here sounds like a leftover or something salvaged from the reject bin, either; these are solid and committed performances of good to very good songs, and they do indeed deserve wider circulation. Sidetracks also serves as a nice showcase for Steve Earle the Interpretive Singer. Since only six of the 13 tracks were written by Earle and two of those are instrumentals, for the most part you get to hear Earle try his hand at other people's songs, and for the most part he sounds great, bringing his own feisty stamp to tunes as diverse as the Flying Burrito Brothers' ode to draft dodging, "My Uncle," the reggae chestnut "Johnny Too Bad" (with Earle sounding like the first rude boy from Texas), the Chambers Brothers' psych-soul protest anthem, "Time Has Come Today" (featuring guest vocals from Sheryl Crow and ghostly samples from Abbie Hoffman; it was recorded for the soundtrack to Steal This Movie), and Nirvana's angst-fest "Breed" (actually the most faithful cover on this disc). Beyond a couple of minor quibbles (as much as one might enjoy "Creepy Jackalope Eye," the real keeper from Earle's EP with the Supersuckers was his high-attitude version of "Before They Make Me Run," which didn't make the cut here), Sidetracks is an impressive collection that makes clear Steve Earle's leftovers make for a better album than most songwriters could construct from their top-shelf work -- and that he can get over as a singer and not just as a songwriter performing his own work.

Product Details

Release Date:
Rykodisc Uk

Related Subjects


  1. Some Dreams
  2. Open Your Window
  3. Me and the Eagle
  4. Johnny Too Bad
  5. Dominick St.
  6. Breed
  7. Time Has Come Today
  8. Ellis Unit One
  9. Creepy Jackalope Eye
  10. Willin'
  11. Sara's Angel
  12. My Uncle
  13. My Back Pages

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Steve Earle   Primary Artist,Acoustic Guitar,Bouzouki,Harmonica,Mandolin,Harmonium,Vocals,Background Vocals,farfisa organ
Jerry Douglas   Weissenborn
Ray Kennedy   Guitar
Fairfield Four   Background Vocals
Sheryl Crow   Vocals
Charlie Chadwick   Cello,Upright Bass
Ken Coomer   Percussion,Drums
Dennis Crouch   Upright Bass
Brad Jones   Upright Bass
Doug Lancio   Guitar
Kelly Looney   Bass
Greg Morrow   Percussion,Drums
Tim O'Brien   Mandolin,Vocals
Will Rigby   Percussion,Drums
Darrell Scott   Banjo,Vocals
Michael Smotherman   Hammond Organ,Choir, Chorus
Joey Spampinato   Bass,Vocals
Garry Tallent   Bass
Kenny Vaughan   Guitar,Vocals
Dancing Eagle   Drums
Eddie Spaghetti   Bass,Vocals
Rev. Brady Blade   Drums
Jeff Bills   Drums
David Steele   Guitar
Paxton Sellers   Bass
Patrick Earle   Percussion,Choir, Chorus,Snare Drums,Loops
Casey Driessen   Fiddle
Rontrose Heathman   Guitar,Background Vocals,Slide Guitar
Jonathan Norris   Choir, Chorus

Technical Credits

Ray Kennedy   Engineer
Nirvana   Composer
Kurt Cobain   Composer
Gerry Parchment   Remixing
Slickers   Composer
Ciaran Byrne   Engineer
Brad Talbott   Art Direction
Matt Svobodny   Engineer
Abbie Hoffman   Contributor
Patrick Earle   Engineer
Twangtrust   Producer
Tony Fitzpatrick   Illustrations,Cover Art
Charles Sussman   Management
Kurt Vitolo   Management

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