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Just an American Boy - The Audio Documentary (Live)

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Album Review

Steve Earle subtitled his 2003 live album Just an American Boy an "Audio Documentary," which may be a bit more grand than it deserves, though in all fairness an awful lot had happened with Earle in the 12 years since his last live album, Shut Up and Die Like an Aviator (recorded shortly before Earle's drug habit bottomed out both his career and his personal life for several years), and a lot was going on with him at the time this show was recorded. Always free with his opinions, Earle's 2002 album Jerusalem, which was written and recorded in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, featured a song about "American Taliban" John Walker Lindh, and soon Earle was being denounced as a traitor by right-wing commentators faster than you could say "Dixie Chicks." As Earle himself puts it on this album, recorded on the tour supporting Jerusalem, "Things have been really f*cking weird down South, and they're gonna get even weirder," and he uses much of Just an American Boy to spotlight the progressive political slant that has long been a part of his songwriting, ranging from his moving anti-death penalty ballad "Billy Austin," the labor anthem "Harlan Man," and his call for new people's heroes in "Christmas in Washington" to a venomous screed against "compassionate conservatism," "Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do)." While Earle mounts a soapbox through much of this set, his political views fortunately don't take a back seat to his skill as a songwriter, which remains razor sharp, or his vocals, which are craggy but emphatic on these recordings, with Earle and his band (including Eric "Roscoe" Ambel and Will Rigby) revving up a potent head of steam throughout. And Earle still knows a good song and a good laugh on the apolitical side of things, as witnessed by "I Remember You," "Ft. Worth Blues," and his stories about encountering square-headed cowboys named Otto in Schertz, TX. The last time Earle recorded a live double, his voice was about to give up on him and he was running on fumes; Just an American Boy finds him strong, defiant, eager to take a stand, and playing like a man half his age. Maybe that doesn't merit an "Audio Documentary," but it's pretty inspiring, and makes for good listening, too.

Customer Reviews


Steve Earle is one of the most impressive Artists out there. This album rocks. Buy it, listen, tell a friend. Thanks Steve

One star? My tail end!

This may not be worth five stars, but I will give it five just to offset the chucklehead who gave it only one star. I have listened to this album a number of times and have enjoyed it with each listen. It is recommended, which is attested to by the other reviews. And it is definitely worth more than one star.

Great album

A wonderful album...Steve Earle's soulful compilation should leave most listeners with a lasting impression.


Born: January 17, 1955 in Fort Monroe, VA

Genre: Country

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

In the strictest sense, Steve Earle isn't a country artist; he's a roots rocker. Earle emerged in the mid-'80s, after Bruce Springsteen had popularized populist rock & roll and Dwight Yoakam had kick-started the neo-traditionalist movement in country music. At first, Earle appeared to be more indebted to the rock side than country, as he played a stripped-down, neo-rockabilly style that occasionally verged on outlaw country. However, his unwillingness to conform to the rules of Nashville or rock...
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