Streets of Sin

Streets of Sin

by Joe Ely
     
 
Streets of Sin is more than Joe Ely's finest album: It stands with some of the best topical albums ever made. And while it's not an overtly political record, it does tap into the temper of the times. Ely's songs limn an America in which no one is safe, no one is secure, most are on the run from something, and even the earth, ravaged by floods and droughts, is

Overview

Streets of Sin is more than Joe Ely's finest album: It stands with some of the best topical albums ever made. And while it's not an overtly political record, it does tap into the temper of the times. Ely's songs limn an America in which no one is safe, no one is secure, most are on the run from something, and even the earth, ravaged by floods and droughts, is rebelling. His lyrics are astonishing in their precise evocation of the desperation driving his characters to the raw edge of sanity, even as they seek a salvation that apparently won't be forthcoming. The music matches the narratives, whether it's the roaring rock 'n' roll spitfire that blasts forth from "I'm Fightin' for My Life," the sinister, minimalist thumping framing a farmer's angry lament, "All That You Need" ("The ones who set the policy don't give a damn about our needs" is a pretty good tip-off as to where Ely stands on this issue), or the lilting, tender country and Tex-Mex strains of the touching love song "That's Why I Love You like I Do." In the dirgelike "Streets of Sin," terse, distorted guitar lines coil in on themselves as the prodigal narrator, so desperate to get back home, finds there's no guarantee he'll even be welcomed. With so little redemption at hand, how Ely manages to advise, "Don't let your love turn to hate" ("Fightin' for My Life") bespeaks both the mystery and the beauty of this masterpiece.

Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - Mark Deming
Texas singer/songwriters tend to be a hardy breed, and Joe Ely is no exception; more than 25 years after he released his first album, the man remains a potent honky tonk poet following his own muse. Streets of Sin, his first studio set in five years, finds him paring back his sound much as he did on Letter to Laredo (though with a subtle but strong electric edge and a willingness to periodically up the tempo), for a collection of songs about people struggling along life's margins -- a family struggling to hold together a failing farm ("All That You Need"), a veteran carny drifting from show to show ("Carnival Bum"), a gambler desperate for a winning bet on a horse ("Run Little Pony"), and the people of a small town desperate to beat their retreat before a flood swallows their homes ("A Flood on Our Hands"). With the exception of two songs from Ely's gifted friend Butch Hancock, Ely wrote all of the material on Streets of Sin, and the disc has a thematic unity and musical consistency that's confident and compelling in its tightrope walk between emotional strength and the fear that collapse lurks around the corner. While it's a smart and ambitious album, Streets of Sin also finds Ely occasionally repeating himself and treading water in territories he's explored with more energy and fresher vision in the past. But while this isn't quite top-shelf Joe Ely, it still captures a superb singer and songwriter doing his work and doing it well, and if it isn't a masterpiece, anyone who has found something special in his work in the past will find some moments to revel in on Streets of Sin.

Product Details

Release Date:
07/15/2003
Label:
Rounder / Umgd
UPC:
0011661318120
catalogNumber:
613181
Rank:
198118

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