The Archives : Steve Earle "I Feel Alright" (1996)

When Steve Earle was let out of the pen after a two-year sentence for all sorts of drug activity, he absolutely exploded with creative energy, recording three consecutive gems from 1995-1997. The centerpiece, 1996's I Feel Alright, is arguably Earle's best record, and to my ears, among the ten best records of the 90s. After years of battling heroin addiction (among countless other substances), Earle followed up the more tame Train a Comin' with this somewhat explosive Americana sound. The self-proclaimed "Hard-Core Troubadour" compiled a raucous mix of 12 perfectly-paced tracks. From the in-your-face declarations in the lead track "I Feel Alright" to the almost Badlands-inspired love-on-the-run "Billy and Bonnie," almost 15 years later, this record sounds as fresh as it did in the mid-90s.

Steve Earle is still recording records at a frantic pace, most recently tossing out Townes, his tribute to his old Texas buddy and mentor. Most of his records released this decade have offered up mixed results, each usually having a few stellar tracks and a slew of duds. But during the heyday of the mid-to-late 90s, Steve Earle's music was as important, vital and inspired as that of his younger brethren. I Feel Alright is a testament to that.