Well, I ride on a mailtrain, baby Can’t buy a thrill Well, I’ve been up all night, baby Leanin’ on the windowsill Well, if I die On top of the hill And if I don’t make it You know my baby will
It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry” is a song written by Bob Dylan that was originally released on his seminal album Highway 61 Revisited, and also included on the compilation album Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits 2 that was released in Europe. An earlier, alternate version of the song appears, in different takes, on The Bootleg Series Volumes 1–3 (Rare & Unreleased) 1961–1991 and The Bootleg Series Vol. 7: No Direction Home.
“Wrecking Ball is a leftfield masterpiece, the most wide-ranging, innovative, and daring record in a career built on such notions. Rich in atmosphere and haunting in its dark complexity…The fixed point remains Harris’ voice, which leaps into each and every one of these diverse compositions — culled from the pens of Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Steve Earle, and others — with utter fearlessness, as if this were the album she’d been waiting her entire life to make. Maybe it is.” – Jason Ankeny (Allmusic)
Wrecking Ball is the eighteenth studio album by Emmylou Harris, released on September 26, 1995 throughElektra Records. Moving away from the traditional acoustic sound for which she had become known, Harris collaborated with rock producer Daniel Lanois and engineer Mark Howard. The album has been noted for atmospheric feel, and featured guest performances by Steve Earle, Larry Mullen, Jr., Lucinda Williams and Neil Young, who wrote the title song.
I saw Emmylou Harris live for the first time this summer, it made me go back and listen to all her albums again, with added interest and new-found love of her music. Not that I had ever lost it, but it felt fresh and deeper after the show in Oslo.
Wrecking Ball is my favourite Harris album, and I rank it among the 30 best albums ever made.
Emmylou Harris talks about Sweet Old World and sings the song with Neil Young:
“I woke up this mornin’ and none of the news was good And death machines were rumblin’ ‘cross the ground where Jesus stood And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way And there was nothin’ anyone could do or say
And I almost listened to him Yeah, I almost lost my mind Then I regained my senses again And looked into my heart to find
That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem” – Steve Earle (Jerusalem)
Steve Earle released this “protest album” post 9/11, but contrary to widespread belief it is not a concept album about the tragic events on that date. Yes, there are some songs relating to it, but only three out of eleven (maybe four). There were som controversy when it came out, especially the song John Walker’s Blues were widely discussed and often slated in right wing media. It is not a song that takes sides, it is a song that tells us that an ordinary American kid fell in with the wrong crowd (in this case, the Taliban). Earle make us look at this boy, and he does not say that he is innocent, but he says that he should be treated like a human being despite his faults and despite his guilt. It is a fantastic song.
“…Earle has crafted a vision of America thrown into chaos, where the falling of the World Trade Center towers is just another symbol of a larger malaise which surrounds us. Before its release,Jerusalem already generated no small controversy over the song “John Walker’s Blues,” which tells the tale of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh as seen through his own eyes. While “John Walker’s Blues” is no more an endorsement of Lindh’s actions than Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” was a tribute to mass-murderer Charles Starkweather, even though it’s one of the album’s strongest songs, if anything, it doesn’t go quite far enough.”
– Mark Demming (allmusic.com)
Steve Earle made a “state of the nation” album, and he is confused and he doesn’t come up with the answers, but he asks the important questions!
Steve Earle: “Was Townes Van Zandt Better Than Bob Dylan? …I’m kinda famous for something I said…I was asked for a sticker for a Townes record that came out in the 80s, I said, Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the world and I’ll stand on Bob Dylan’s coffee table in my cowboy-boots and say that. … It wasn’t that I thought that Townes was better than Bob Dylan. I just knew that Townes really needed the help.”
Well, I love both Van Zandt and Dylan, and so does Steve Earle. He has done songs by both on several occasions, and he did an entire album with Townes Van Zandt songs.
In this post we pick the best interpretations we can find of Steve Earle singing Bob Dylan’s songs.
Steve Earle – Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright at Johnny Brenda’s Philadelphia,27 Feb 2011:
The first two things I wrote were Guitar Town and Down the Road, because I was looking for an opening and an ending. So I wrote ’em like bookends, and then filled in the spaces in the middle. And the album’s kind of about me. It’s kind of personal.
~Steve Earle (to Alanna Nash – May 1986)
Guitar Town was his first shot at showing a major audience what he could do, and he hit a bull’s-eye — it’s perhaps the strongest and most confident debut album any country act released in the 1980s.
~Mark Deming (allmusic)