1995 was the year that two of my favorite albums of the 1990s were released: Son Volt's Trace and Dar Williams' The Honesty Room. It was the year of Jonatha Brooke's best album, Plumb, and Del Amitri's deceptively good pop tune, "Roll to Me." What I forgot—shame on me—was the brilliant comeback album by Steve Earle, Train a Comin'. In 1995, Earle was fresh out of prison. He'd kicked the drug habit that stalled his career, and come out of prison with his creativity recharged and his political conscience activated. He became an anti-death penalty crusader and, over the last eight bleak years, an outspoken critic of the Bush administration and the war in Iraq. His songs are often politically-charged, often angry, and sometimes controversial—as in the case of "John Walker's Blues," in which he sings in the persona of John Walker Lindh, "the American Taliban."
His 1995 album is all-acoustic, and features a stellar line-up of musicians: Peter Rowan, Norman Blake, Roy Huskey. and Emmylou Harris. It's a great combination of grit, empathy, world-weariness, and surprising lyrical beauty. I don't know how I could have left it out of my retrospective of the great year in music, 1995.
Steve Earle performing "Hometown Blues," from Train a Comin', at the Blue Note in New York City, 2007.
My poem " Phrasebook " has been published online in Ergon: Greek/American Arts and Letters .
The frontispiece from Countee Cullen's The Black Christ and Other Poems (1929). Illustration by Charles Cullen. Click to enlarge. On...
Here's the poem I wrote and read for the student-organized International Day of Peace gathering in Bridge Square on Wednesday, Septembe...
In early August, the director of the Northfield Public Library, Teresa Jensen, asked me to write a poem to be displayed prominently in the...