Critic's Pick

Steve Earle has beaten so many demons (the bottle, heroin addiction, bad marriages, worse managers) that seeing him emerge as country music's poet laureate is not at all surprising; he's a man of conscience and truth who's not afraid to put his neck on the line. Since cleaning up his life in the mid-'90s, Earle has come through with a succession of solid albums and now a book (Doghouse Roses) that bring his politics and convictions to life. But with his band the Dukes behind him, he'll be more inclined to rock out than to proselytize about prisoners' rights and the death penalty.

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