After not writing or recording anything for four years, Steve Earle came back with a vengeance. A month after getting out of rehab, he recorded the acoustic (“Not unplugged… God, I hate MTV,” he said) Train a Comin’ (1995), thus beginning a new, clean, and prolific chapter in his career. This superb box set includes said record, plus the rock-based I Feel Alright (1996), the country-flavored El Corazón (1997), the previously unreleased Live at the Polk Theater (recorded in Tenessee in 1995), and the To Hell and Back DVD, a concert filmed at the Cold Creek Correctional Facility in Tennessee. “There are people who argue that [Guitar Town and Copperhead Road] are better records than Train a Comin’ and El Corazón but they’re wrong,” Earle wrote in the liner notes. “There are already a lot of people who agree with me on that and by the time I’m dead, more people will.” It’s hard not to take Earle’s side after listening to the whole collection, back-to-back. It is a testament to the underrated magic of sobriety. “Don’t let anyone tell you there’s any correlation between being creative and being fucked up,” said Earle. Cheers to that.
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