6. Steve Earle – Copperhead Road (1988)
Despite receiving critical acclaim for his first two country-oriented albums, Steve Earle made a break from the confines of Nashville, putting himself on the rock n’ roll map with the release of 1988’s collection of “heavy metal bluegrass”, Copperhead Road.
Earle’s signature song and album title track begins with the synthesized sound of bagpipes, before bringing in a thumping beat to accompany his folksy mandolin and southern-drawled vocals, which tell the story of a Vietnam veteran who grows marijuana on the same road where his “daddy and his daddy before” made moonshine. As “Copperhead Road” reaches its climax in a frenzy of guitar and boot-scooting chaos, it is easy to see why it has become a favourite amongst rock aficionados and line dancers alike.
In the similarly rollicking "Snake Oil", the outspoken Earle criticises President Regan, before lamenting man's lust for firearms in “The Devil’s Right Hand”. In a collaborative effort, Earle then joins with Irish band The Pogues, pairing his gritty vocals with their Celtic folk on "Johnny Come Lately". Demonstrating Earle’s flexibility as a songwriter, Copperhead Road opens with a bang, but closes on a reflective note, with the Christmassy “Nothing But A Child” bringing a sense of tranquillity to an otherwise lively album.