Steve Earle did for country in the 1980s what Waylon Jennings did for it in the '70s--released it from the shackles of commerciality and overproduction by introducing a bad-ass, rock-friendly outlaw aesthetic. Besides his talents as a singer/songwriter, Earle is a producer/entrepreneur who's worked with many other artists (some on his own label) and helped foster a new wave of progressive country. He's also a dedicated political activist who's done much for a variety of progressive causes.
Anyone who can string together outcast clichés and make them as fresh and exciting as the songs that adorn Ain't Ever Satisfied has earned esteem. The anthology is really 1993's Essential Steve Earle plus 15 additional tracks, including live covers of "State Trooper," "Dead Flowers," and "She's About a Mover." The earlier best-of will suffice, if you can still find it, but the 2 CD updating is by no means a stretch. --Steven Stolder
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