After taking some stylistic detours over the past few years, hardcore troubadour Steve Earle is back to embracing his rootsy roots on I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive. Working for the first time with legendary producer T Bone Burnett, who gives a casual warmth to the songs, Earle occasionally evokes his classic post-rehab records here. The album's best tracks ("Lonely Are the Free" and "Little Emperor") would fit effortlessly onto El Corazon or any of Earle's other stellar records from that period. But he also slumps hard at times, like on the musically muddy "Meet Me in the Alleyway" and the dull "Every Part of Me." Every moment here is tastefully produced, artfully played, and perfectly sung. But none of it is terribly necessary. — Chris Drabick
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