“I woke up this mornin’ and none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin’ ‘cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me that it had always been that way
And there was nothin’ anyone could do or say
And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find
That I believe that one fine day all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem”
– Steve Earle (Jerusalem)
Steve Earle released this “protest album” post 9/11, but contrary to widespread belief it is not a concept album about the tragic events on that date. Yes, there are some songs relating to it, but only three out of eleven (maybe four). There were som controversy when it came out, especially the song John Walker’s Blues were widely discussed and often slated in right wing media. It is not a song that takes sides, it is a song that tells us that an ordinary American kid fell in with the wrong crowd (in this case, the Taliban). Earle make us look at this boy, and he does not say that he is innocent, but he says that he should be treated like a human being despite his faults and despite his guilt. It is a fantastic song.
“…Earle has crafted a vision of America thrown into chaos, where the falling of the World Trade Center towers is just another symbol of a larger malaise which surrounds us. Before its release,Jerusalem already generated no small controversy over the song “John Walker’s Blues,” which tells the tale of “American Taliban” John Walker Lindh as seen through his own eyes. While “John Walker’s Blues” is no more an endorsement of Lindh’s actions than Bruce Springsteen’s “Nebraska” was a tribute to mass-murderer Charles Starkweather, even though it’s one of the album’s strongest songs, if anything, it doesn’t go quite far enough.”
– Mark Demming (allmusic.com)
Steve Earle made a “state of the nation” album, and he is confused and he doesn’t come up with the answers, but he asks the important questions!
He sings about fears in Ashes to Ashes and Conspiracy Theory, the ever-growing differences between the rich and the poor in Amerika V. 6.0 (The Best We Can Do), desperation of a Mexican man who lost his job in one of the many oppressive, foreign-owned assembly plants in What’s A Simple Man to Do and the injustice of the American judicial system in The Truth. Earle seems not so angry, but rather sad about the state of things.
He did not make a protest album all through, he has (as always) room for some sweet country ballads on the record. I especially like his duet with Emmylou Harris, I Remember You.
Steve Earle ends the album with a message of hope, a hope that the answers can be found in peace and forgiveness.
Jerusalem is the bold work of a thinking man and the album is a thought-provoking work of art.
Live @ Palladium, Malmö, Sweden 2009/10/28. Steve Earle do John Walker’s Blues from Jerusalem for the first time on the European leg of his 2009 tour:
Steve Earle performing Jerusalem(the song) live at Factory Theatre in Sydney on 8 April 2012 (with an incredible intro):
Steve Earle – Jerusalem on Spotify: