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Steve Earle: To Hell and Back

But the hour of music is not without a message, as Earle also talks candidly about his 1994 stretch at Tennessee's Cold Creek Correctional Facility on drug possession charges. His long battle with drug addiction and how his life has changed since being incarcerated also are discussed as the spec is framed by the prison as one of two concerts ordered by the court as part of Earle's conditions of probation.

With:
Band: Earle, Kelley Looney, Mark Stuart, David Steele, Custer. If listening to his recent Warner Bros. disc "I Feel Alright" isn't sufficient proof that the career slide of country-rock icon Steve Earle is over, then this enjoyable, well-executed music spec showcasing the talented artist performing some of his best-known tunes should erase all doubt.

But the hour of music is not without a message, as Earle also talks candidly about his 1994 stretch at Tennessee’s Cold Creek Correctional Facility on drug possession charges. His long battle with drug addiction and how his life has changed since being incarcerated also are discussed as the spec is framed by the prison as one of two concerts ordered by the court as part of Earle’s conditions of probation.

Earle and his longtime band the Dukes reunite for a series of barn-burners from the current disc and earlier repertoire, which is sure to find as much favor among viewers as it did with the inmates in attendance.

Set highlights included the disc’s title track, a deft reworking of Bob Dylan’s nugget “It Takes a Lot to Laugh, It Takes a Train to Cry,” and perennial fave “Copperhead Road,” the tune with which Earle probably is most closely associated.

But the MTV influence seemingly forces director Joe Perota to add quick cuts, extemporaneous angles and a plethora of crane shoots to inject an unnecessary sense of urgency and energy into the show.

Earle’s kinetic performance, the location of the show and the inmates’ between-song comments about prison existence and missing life on the outside succeed by themselves in communicating those nuances.

Steve Earle: To Hell and Back

Production: Steve Earle: To Hell and Back (Sat. (17), 9-10 p.m., MTV) Videotaped by MTV. Executive producer, Carol Donovan; producer, Kevin West; director; Joe Perota; lighting director, Bob Peterson; sound, Jay Vacari.

Crew: Editor, Lesli Lyon.

With: Band: Earle, Kelley Looney, Mark Stuart, David Steele, Custer. If listening to his recent Warner Bros. disc "I Feel Alright" isn't sufficient proof that the career slide of country-rock icon Steve Earle is over, then this enjoyable, well-executed music spec showcasing the talented artist performing some of his best-known tunes should erase all doubt.

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