RARA-AVIS: Re: Steve Earle

From: Kevin Burton Smith ( kvnsmith@colba.net)
Date: 30 Jun 2001

Regarding this snippet of review on Amazon:

><<uneven collection . . . thrives on a love of hyperbole
>and maudlin sentiment, both of which are perhaps best confined
>to country songs - PW>>

Mario wrote:

>Not to make or invite hatchet-job confessions from the
>distinguished membership, but anonymous reviews do tend to
>be a lot more truthful, or at least a lot less fawning, do
>they not?

I dunno. A lot of the anonymous (or even signed) reviews on Amazon seem pretty shaky to me. There's definitely the stench of axes being ground, hovering over many of those anonymous reviews. I mean, big names get routinely trashed (it's a favourite sport there) and people nobody's heard of get praised to the moon and fawned over plenty. All those opinions may be honest and valid, but if they don't even sign your name, why should we trust them?

And of course, then there's Amazon's" Number One Reviewer" who does sign her name, but I don't trust her either. So maybe it's just me.

Anyway, PW is, I assume, PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, so that's not quite the same thing as a totally anonymous review, in that ultimately PW's critical rep (whoever actually wrote it) is on the line.

As for the actual snippet in question, to me it reveals as much of the writer's prejudices about country music as any commentary on Steve Earle. To dismiss Earle as a "country" singer is to miss the point. His music has ranged from pure bluegrass to some of the most harrowing stuff this side of EXILE ON MAIN STREET. He's actually much closer to a sort of at story-telling folk tradition that could conceivably include Stephen Foster, Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, the Clancy Brothers, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Stan Rogers, Billy Bragg, the Carter Family, Leadbelly, The Clash and a zillion others. So, in these days of multi-media cross-pollinization, Earle writing a book of short stories makes a perfect sort of sense.

And that comment, "Thrives on a love of hyperbole and maudlin sentiment"? Sounds a bit like half the post-Chandler books we discuss on this list.

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