Country and rock ’n roll have always intersected to a certain degree. “So You Wannabe an Outlaw,” an album released in the summer of 2017 by Steve Earle and The Dukes, is a great example of what happens when these genres get crossed.
Many of the songs on the album, like “The Girl on the Mountain,” tell complete stories. Storytelling is a caveat of country music, while the themes present within the tracks allude to rock’s sense of getting into trouble.
“Lookin’ for a Woman” takes listeners into the world of a hungover and heart stricken fellow who is, literally, lookin’ for a woman—a subject most of us are used to hearing book-ended by blazing guitar solos and heavy bass lines. But the places he’s checking for this woman include the likes of “Timbuktu” and “Blue Bayou,” which are spots you’d be more likely to find a good ‘ole country boy like Steve Earle.
“Fixin’ to Die” is the most rockin’ track on the album, equipped with kick drum that you can feel in your feet and a guitar solo that you might expect from 80’s era bands. But on the flip side, “You Broke My Heart” really tones down the electric instruments. The outcome is a diverse record that feels very well-rounded.
Although the album is overwhelmingly country, the electric guitar, in a grungy glory, makes an appearance in almost every track on the album. This brings a special edginess to the tracks, and when mixed with Earle’s signature raspy vocals, the record feels very in touch with its gritty side. But the bass lines in the songs are fiercely country, utilizing the classic 1-5-1-5 progression, and there’s no short of fiddle and slide guitar.
The variety this album brings to the table means its audience is significantly broader than what a specifically country or specifically rock album could pull. The front part of the album holds its most electric-led tracks, while the latter half of the record appeases those looking for the cleverness and clarity that country lyrics and instrumentation bring. All-in-all, “So You Wannabe an Outlaw” is a great album for anyone who’s new to country because it has so many elements of rock. Nevertheless, it is still a country album, which also makes it perfect for longtime listeners of the genre who are looking for a little something to mix it up.