By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

August 26, 2004

Steve Earle
"The Revolution Starts ... Now

"Yeah the revolution starts now/In your own backyard/In your own hometown/So what you doin' standin' around?/Just follow your heart/The revolution starts now."

Steve Earle's rocking call to individual action arrives in the middle of a presidential campaign, which means that a lot of people who don't agree with his politics will be calling for him and the other artists on the "Vote for Change" tour to shut up.

So Earle saves his rage for the FCC, a symbol of those who would chill, or worse, our right of free speech.

In "F the CC" - that's the title, but the song uses the word - Earle notes how he's been called a traitor, a reference to 2002's "John Walker's Blues" about the American Taliban, and he takes a slap at conservative media that he says "moan about the immigrants but don't say nothin' about the president/A democracy don't work that way/I can say anything I wanna say."

But Earle mostly vents through his mastery of the story song, getting into another man's head and looking at life from his vantage point. In "Home to Houston," a trucking song that would be at home musically on a Dave Dudley album, Earle writes about a civilian fuel hauler in Basra who prays to "get back to Houston alive."

Elsewhere, one American kid whose job was outsourced to Mexico is rolling into Baghdad while another, sporting a flag tattoo on his arm, slogs through the dust in Afghanistan. There's a third kid, too, a Palestinian rock thrower in Gaza. They're all poor boys off to fight a "Rich Man's War."

Two love songs lighten the mood, "Comin' Around," a duet with Emmylou Harris, and the ballad "I Thought You Should Know," which features one of Earle's strongest vocals ever.

"The Revolution Starts ... Now" is among Earle's best work. It's a shame that some people will miss the art for their rejection of the artist.