Just the other day I was wondering whether being a ‘Hellraiser’ is a lifestyle choice, or more of a ‘calling’. I was inspired toward this thought by Robert Sellers’ excellent book ‘Hellraisers – the life and inebriated times of Burton, Harris, O’Toole and Reed’ (please note that this refers to Richard, Richard, Peter and Oliver, rather than the slightly less hellraising quartet of Tim, Rolf, Plenty and Austin).
I’m not suggesting for a moment that a life of drinking, womanising and motorbikes is for me though – I can’t even ride a pushbike, so the thought of something powerful between my legs fills me with apprehension (thanks to Julian Clary, who has copyright on that last sentence!).
Our cassette experiment subject today, Steve Earle, has seen his fair share of hellraising in his time too. Well publicised drug problems, a short period in jail and seven marriages (but only to six different wives) mean that his albums contain a little bit more of real life than many others do.
‘The hard way’ recorded with The Dukes, has tales of open roads, blue-collar life, hopeless romantics and the execution of a murderer who bemoans the fact that his crime didn’t even make the Newspaper. As if to prove his working-class credentials, Steve even appears on the cover wearing what can only be described as a ‘Casey Jones’ hat.
There are, it must be said, one or two slightly monotonous low-points on this cassette (‘This Highway’s mine (Roadmaster)’ and ‘West Nashville Boogie’ are skippable if I’m being honest), but the high-points more than make up for them. The storming ‘The other kind’ makes you yearn for a big motorbike (even if, like me, you’d probably fall off) and ‘Hopeless romantics’ is the kind of track that Earle does best.
It is, however, the tale of 29 year old, quarter-Cherokee, murderer ‘Billy Austin’ that is the high point here by a considerably long chalk. Once you’ve spent 6 minutes and 31 seconds in its illustrious company you’ll never be the same again – and you’ll probably come to the conclusion that hellraising isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Now, where did I put my glass of milk?
Label – MCA
Year - 1990