I Feel Alright

The 1002nd Album – S1E29. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright (Mike Ladano)

Thank you Geoff Stephen from the 1002nd Album for this chance to talk about Steve Earle’s immensely great I Feel Alright album.

Geoff’s words:

Welcome, Mike ‘LeBrain’ Ladano! Join Mike & I as we discuss quadratic relation-esque running orders, why we avoid skipping so-called skippable tracks, and the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes certain albums magical.

Enjoy on Youtube below!



#1027: I Feel Alright

RECORD STORE TALES #1027: I Feel Alright

We all have ups and downs.  If you say you don’t then I don’t believe you.  I’ve never been diagnosed bipolar but I’ve always wondered, the way my spirits can sway to and fro.  I can’t remember how long it has been this way for me, but I think since University – around age 19.  That’s when I really started to feel lonely.  Up until then my best friend Bob and I had been tighter than tight, but now we were at different schools and in different circles of friends.  It felt weird but I knew it was a natural thing that happens.  I certainly had read enough teen fiction on the concept of friends drifting apart.  Alice Cooper even had a song about it called “Alma Mater” on the School’s Out album.  Up until that point my life was fairly uncomplicated by things like girls.

I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, the point at which I can self-reflect with a little more knowledge and wisdom.  In some ways, I’ve pulled it together better than ever in 2022 with a solid support group and strategies.  On the other hand, there have been unforeseen difficulties in 2022.  I used to be driven by the idea of writing every day.  This year writing really became stale for me so I have had to look to other creative avenues instead.  Even though this feeling had been building a long time, it is still a difficult adjustment to my routine.  But I’m adjusting.  I still listen to music every day at work, in the car and at home.  I just don’t want to force myself to write about it anymore.  Maybe I just want to chill on the couch watching YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, one of the surprises this fall is that live streaming just happened to feel right for me again.  Keeping things loose, simple and unprepared is way more fun than spending hours and hours on taking notes every week.  And I need to thank Harrison, the Mad Metal Man, my trusty co-host.  I prefer having a co-host to being a solo artist and Harrison has been with me every single week so far.  He’s helped me put the social fun back into my Friday nights.  Harrison the Mad Metal Man deserves a hell of a lot of praise, even if you’re not watching our show (Grab a Stack of Rock with Mike and the Mad Metal Man).  Pat him on the back just for being a part of a thing that’s helping me get through this cold, dark winter.

Dark indeed!  I leave for work before the sun is up.  The sun is setting, and just laying on the horizon during my drive home.  I get no daylight at all; I’m stuck in my office.  But hope is not lost.  The solstice is only 17 days away.  That means soon the days will be getting longer again.  In one month, the sun will still set at approximately the same time as tonight, but each night thereafter it will be setting later and later.  That is a warming thought.

I also need to thank my new friend from California who’s chosen the name California Girl (and occasionally “Lady Vader”) for our little show.  A few people have wondered who she is and how we met, and it’s the most unusual story but also inspiring.  I’m happy to say I have a few friends that I consider to be very close to me, that I have never met in my life.  Tee Bone, Deke, Harrison, Snowman, these are people with whom I’ve shared a lot of joys and pain.  They have likewise shared in return and become mutual support.  I’ve never met any of them.  We need to redefine what friendship means in 2022.  You don’t need to be physically close to someone, to be close!  No, you can be separated by 12 time zones.  In the case of California Girl, I think sometimes music fans just find each other.  One day earlier this year, she was searching online for Led Zeppelin lists and stumbled upon our little show, the Zep deep cuts episode with Geoff, Mars and Sarah.  For whatever reason, she claims she thought we were cool, which I have strenuously denied!  She messaged me out of the blue and we started chatting.  We became friends and mutual fans of each other.  She digs my writing, cottage videos, and live shows, and I dig her modelling on Instagram.  And that’s OK!  We all have our creative outlets so don’t judge.  Jen and I are both fans, but it goes far beyond the surface.  I’m grateful that I have added another person to my long distance support network.  She was there for me through my difficult dental surgery and she’s made winter fun for me, by allowing me to share it with her via videos and pictures.  She wants to dip her toes into collaborating with me and so she’s already appeared on the live show once via an “Ask Harrison” question, and a fictional story we came up with.  Yeah, I’m definitely her friend and her fan.  Her positivity and encouragement have had a tangible impact on the things you have seen and read on this very website in the last four months.

You’ll notice the thread running through these paragraphs is, as always, music.  The one constant in my life.  The one thing that never ghosted me, stabbed me in the back or left me out to dry.  Music, possibly the most powerful form of communication on earth.  It combines words with feelings, in a way that naturally resonates with the human soul.

Have you ever seen American Dad?  The episode where Roger is on a blind date with a girl:

Girl:  “So…do you like music?”

Roger:  “Do I like music?  No, no I’m the one person on Earth who doesn’t like music.”


From that first moment when Styx made me feel cool, to this very moment rocking out to hard rock as I hammer out words, music has been there my whole life.  My parents nurtured this from a young age by buying me John Williams records.  Then came Styx, and Quiet Riot really sold me on the kind of music that I craved.  Maiden changed my life, and Kiss wormed their way into my heart.  The tunes are part of me.  Playing them is like drawing strength from an infinite well.  When I’m miserable, music is there to take the edge off just a little bit.

Even at the Catholic school retreat where music was forbidden, they could not take “Love Gun” out of my head.  I hummed it to myself as a shield.

Even as the bullies made my days hell, Kiss made my nights happy.

Even as I sat alone in my room in my 20s, I was comforted by Van Halen, Motley Crue, Extreme, Guns N’ Roses, Tesla, Skid Row, Rush, Steve Vai, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Deep Purple.

I feel alright.  I’m making it.  Seasonal affective disorder is a bitch, and every year is unique in small ways.  This year was no exception.  It actually feels like a monumental shift in my life, losing the passion for writing while making a new friend.  But there’s the balance.  Lose one thing, gain another.  It’s mostly a matter of navigating the bumps.

I feel alright!  We’re almost through this year.  New adventures lay ahead.  Let’s look forward to them, whatever they may be.


REVIEW: Steve Earle – I Feel Alright (1996)

STEVE EARLE – I Feel Alright (1996 Warner)

One of the greatest albums of the 90s might never have happened if Steve Earle didn’t get addicted, go to jail, and finally clean up.  Earle was always a formidable songwriter.  “Ain’t Ever Satisfied”, “Someday”, and “The Other Kind” (to name only three) dripped with emotion and a certain perfection, insofar as art goes.  Steve’s songs were always about life, but in the 90s, life got intense.  I Feel Alright is the resultant album, a masterpiece that serves as the prototype for several more of Earle’s later works.

I Feel Alright was actually preceded by an acoustic album called Train A Comin’, made up of songs written from 1974 to 1995  In the liner notes, Steve tells the story.

“When I was locked up, I was getting ready to go off on this boy that stole my radio.  My partner Paul asked me where I was going.  I said, ‘To get my radio, and then go to the hole for a little while.’  He looked at me like I look at my 13 year old sometimes and said, ‘No, you ain’t.  You’re gonna sit your little white ass down and do your little time and then you’re gonna get out of here and make me a nice record.’  SO, I MADE TWO.”

“I Feel Alright” opens with defiant chords, hands hitting the strings unrelentingly, and then Steve opens his mouth.  It’s the same voice but somehow, now it feels like he really means it.   “I feel alright tonight,” he sings reassuringly.  Because we were worried about him!  The worldly lyrics are backed by shimmering layers of guitar.

Fun hits hard on “Hard Core Troubadour”, classic guitars chiming away.  Singing about a girl who’s seeing another guy on the side, Steve threatens him with the epic line:  “Wherefore art thou Romeo, you son of a bitch?”  It’s over and out in under three minutes, but the enduring adventure will be worth a repeat spin.

A blast of harmonica enters for the sentimental “More Than I Can Do”.  Upbeat and unforgettable.   Simple, impeccably constructed, and effective.  Three perfect songs in a row.

The first ballad, “Hurtin’ Me, Hurtin’ You”, is the kind of song Steven Tyler has been trying to write since about 1993, except done right.  This is what he’s been trying to write — the bluesy country heartbroken ballad with punch.  Sorry Tyler, Steve’s got you beat.  This song has “Crazy” beat by a country mile.

Upbeat harmonica enters the fray once again on “Now She’s Gone”, the story of a wild child.  Something Steve probably knows a thing or two about.  Vivid storytelling.  “She met a boy up in Kentucky, Charlie was his name. Just when he thought he got lucky, she stole his watch and chain.”  Most of I Feel Alright is short and sweet and this is no exception.  With rough and weathered voice, Earle sings it with intent.

Side one closes on “Poor Boy”, traditional country a-la Johnny (Cash or Horton).  Strong beat, light twang, and seasoned singing.  This is the kind of country Steve would have grown up on.

Opening side two, “Valentine’s Day” is a somber apology.  It sounds like Earle has made quite a few apologies in his day, and this represents them all.  Gentle, with subtle country backing vocals and light strings.

The clouds give way to a fiery blaze in “The Unrepentant”.  Steve’s hunting the devil himself this time, with a “bad attitude and a loaded .44.”  He concludes his threat with, “You got your pitchfork and I got my gun…somebody’s gotta do it.”  Fans of “Copperhead Road” will enjoy this song cut from a similar electrified cloth, though at a slower, more deliberate pace.

The only track on I Feel Alright that might be out of step is the blunt blues “CCKMP” (“Cocaine Cannot Kill My Pain”).  It’s obviously dark, raw, and intense.  Clearly born from Steve’s own experiences, and completely relevant to the journey.  Will you enjoy listening to it?  Difficult to say.  What can be said is “CCKMP” is the dark point of this ride, the scary part in the tunnel.  It has its place.  It would have been wrong to leave out this crucial part of Steve’s journey.

“Billy and Bonnie” is a classic outlaw story, mandolin singing away while a driving beat takes us on down a dusty dirt road.  A Cadillac, a gas station robbery, and a day in court make for a killer story (literally)!  Then it’s a little bit of traditional country bluegrass on “South Nashville Blues”.  Looking for a little company, with money in pocket.

Ending as strongly as it began, I Feel Alright goes out on a duet with Lucinda Williams.  “You’re Still Standing There” is the love letter at the end of the story, the happy ending.  More blasts of harmonica, backed by impeccable melodic construction.  When you filter those melodies through the very human voices of Steve Earle and Lucinda Williams, you get a raw celebration of a closer that just makes you wanna smile.

The celebration is just that Steve survived.  That he came back truly a stronger singer/songwriter is the remarkable part.  Though he came close to perfection on followup albums like El Corazón and Trancendental Blues, song for song, Steve has never touched the level of I Feel Alright again.  It’s one of those magical albums that’s composed of classic after classic after classic; songs you want to keep hearing over and over again.  Very real performances, communicating human emotion efficaciously.  A perfect record.

5/5 stars