Music » CD Reviews

Steve Earle

Jerusalem (Artemis/E-squared)


Yes, this is the CD that contains "John Walker's Blues," the most misunderstood song since George Will discovered "Born in the U.S.A." and decided, by virtue of its title, that it was a patriotic anthem. The cut is a first-person account of what made John Walker Lindh forsake America and do what he did. Never mind that Jerusalem has yet to be released: Just seeing "John Walker" in print is enough of a call to arms for Fox News, The New York Post, and CNN to have Earle locked up with Lindh.

Nevertheless, Jerusalem is Earle's most political album, and that's saying a lot about a man who's already given us "Ellis Unit One," "Billy Austin," and "Christmas in Washington." Subjects of these musical broadsides include baby-boomer materialism, government assaults on our privacy, and the hope for lasting peace in the Holy Land. There's also a sweet duet with Emmylou Harris ("I Remember You") and a punchy rocker co-written with Sheryl Crow ("Go Amanda"). Musically, Jerusalem isn't one of Earle's stronger efforts. A guy with his genius should be able to bang out tunes like this on a slow weekend. (Earle couldn't even make bad records when he was in the throes of heroin addiction, a dozen years ago.) But while it's no El Corazon or Transcendental Blues, it's still a jewel; the lyrics make it so vital.

If you want feel-good patriotism, Neil Young and Paul McCartney are there for you. For all the jingoists, stick to Toby Keith and Charlie Daniels. Want to be challenged to think? Jerusalem will go upside your head.

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.