Sidetracks

While once again illustrating just how deeply he loves all kinds of music—from folk to country to bluegrass to grunge to reggae—Steve Earle reminds us here that he also knows intimately

While once again illustrating just how deeply he loves all kinds of music—from folk to country to bluegrass to grunge to reggae—Steve Earle reminds us here that he also knows intimately what it's like to be a fan, giving us this excitingly diverse and hip collection of odds and ends. A must-have for hardcore followers, Sidetracks compiles covers (a surprisingly venomous take on Nirvana's "Breed" and a stark remake of Bob Dylan's "My Back Pages") with Earle's many soundtrack cuts (including "Some Dreams" from The Rookie). Among the album's many highlights are the alternate version of "Ellis Unit One," featuring the Fairfield Four—the original version was used in the film Dead Man Walking—and Earle's inspiring albeit unlikely take on the Slickers' reggae classic "Johnny Too Bad." It's rare that an odds-and-ends set proves this compelling—and that, as much as anything else, emphasizes just how remarkable a talent we have in Earle, who pitches in track-by-track commentary here.—WO