Steve Earle, The Unquiet American

Steve Earle is no sucker. The left-of-left roots-rocker understands that this whole media mess – ask Dan Rather for more on that score – could be solved by giving the airwaves back to the people. But he also understands that capitalist countries like ours don’t give anything away for free. On one hand, he’s not alone in thinking that President Bush is a born-again fundamentalist hungry to lower God’s boom on the heathens of the world. But on the other hand, he also believes that the American people – not Bush, Cheney, Rove or anyone else – have everything in their power to stop the downward slide. “I don’t think the country is heading the direction that it is because of them,” the Nashville resident argues, “it’s because of us.”

Like I said. No sucker.

Check any newspaper, blog or TV showtoday and you’ll no doubt find some chattering pundit quickly blaming America’s ills on homosexuals, Muslims, fundamentalist Christians, Karl Rove, Britney Spears, Carrot Top – anybody but the American people themselves. Earle doesn’t afford us that luxury. The hard-earned gifts he has given himself over a rough-and-tumble existence marked by protest, addiction, art, divorce, jail time and working within genres traditionally populated by get-in-line necks like Toby Keith offer no condolences for the lazy. “Democracy is hard work,” the oft-nominated Grammy vet explains. “There will never be a time where we can just coast.”

Coasting is something Earle can’t afford to do, because his conscience won’t let him. Whether he’s sonically fomenting an American revolt on his latest release ‘The Revolution Starts…Now,’ co-founding the Broadaxe Theatre and fronting a self-penned play about Karla Faye Tucker, campaigning tirelessly with conscientious organizations hoping to get rid of the death penalty, torture, land mines and more, he understands as much as any visionary that staying active is the only way to stay involved. And even though some may ironically complain that his political songcraft – on earnest display in crunchy ‘Revolution’ tunes like “F the CC,” “Rich Man’s War,” “Condi Condi” and more – has no place in politics, they’re missing the point.

Which is this. Earle is an artist, first and foremost and, as he explains, “artists have always commented on the society around them.” Better get used to