Just ask the Dixie Chicks: The revolution will not be countrified. But that hasn't stopped country-rock rebel Steve Earle from making The Revolution Starts... Now, his most political -- and sadly unconvincing -- statement to date. Whereas his past work deftly straddled the line between rhetoric and song, Revolution thrashes and flounders in a muddle of shrill distortion and crotchety polemic, sounding less like a manifesto and more like an old man grumbling over the morning paper. Earle is best when he's inhabiting characters and spinning yarns, not shouting clichéd, ultimately empty epithets like "Fuck the FCC!" over tuneless riffs. Even worse is the would-be satire of "Condi, Condi," a poison-ink love letter to Condoleezza Rice that vividly demonstrates -- in case there was any doubt -- that people from Texas should never play reggae. Make no mistake: Steve Earle is a songwriter of the highest order, and his heart is undeniably in the right place. -- Jason Heller
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