Breathnaigh has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks.


"Johnny Come Lately"

Steve Earle (w/ The Pogues) - Copperhead Road, 1988, MCA
Rating - *** (out of four)
Lyric grab:
"When I first got to London it was pourin' down rain
Met a little girl in the field canteen
Painted her name on the nose of my plane
Six more missions I'm gone."

I cannot believe this song came out in 1988 - its sound and its lyrics were topical then and remain so. It's a good primer on Steve Earle's bearded brand of rebellious patriotism. And drinking.

Unfortunately, it seems Shane MacGowan wasn't around to contribute a toothless verse.

Anyway, this a is a fantastic, rockin' song. It's not doing anything new, of course, but who is these days (or was in 1988? I mean, Dr. Feelgood was still a year away. What was country music doing? Randy Travis... if you're lucky. All those country artists get the tag "new traditionalist", but that's bullshit. If it weren't for them there'd be no Garth Brooks, if it weren't for Garth, there'd be no Shania [not to mention Chris Gaines], and we'd all be better off)? So it's nice to hear Earle's boilermaker take on country, just a shot of Irish whiskey in a pint glass of Bud.

Earle is a lyrics guy, but he's fearless when it comes to songs-as-message. His latest album is a sometimes painfully bald attack on GWB and the current war in Iraq. "Johnny Come Lately" has lyrical stages. Most of the song narrates the story of an American soldier in WWII, flying missions out of the UK and waiting out the Blitz with a "North End girl". Of course, a member of the "greatest generation", he returns home a hero. The same accolades and heroic status do not translate to the Vietnam era, as the voice of the song shifts to a 'Nam vet, grandson of the WWII ace.

The parting shot: "Nobody here, maybe nobody knows, bout a place called Vietnam" is delivered almost cursorily, and if you didn't know Steve Earle, you might file this as a rootsy Toby Keith tune. But it ain't. Though too young for the draft, Earle is a child of Vietnam, and this is an anti-war, pro-soldier song, perfect for 2005 - maybe more appropriate than it was for 1988.

No comments: