Steve Earle was a country-rock renegade when Uncle Tupelo were still in short pants and NO DEPRESSION was an inscription on a Prozac bottle. EL CORAZON stands as a milestone in the long checkered career of an artist who's been to hell and back without losing an ounce of his songwriting talent. This uniformly excellent batch of tunes alternates between gentle acoustic ballads and hard-rocking numbers that could give those grunge boys a run for their money (in fact, Seattle's Supersuckers guest on one track). On the opener, "Christmas in Washington", Earle invokes the spirit of bygone heroes like Woody Guthrie and Martin Luther King in service of an unpretentious folk ballad of socio-political discontent. He shows off his storytelling chops on the rocking "Taneytown", supported by the breathy harmonies of Emmylou Harris. The elegiac "Ft. Worth Blues" pays tribute to Earle's old running buddy and primary influence, the late Townes Van Zandt. Throughout, the album lives up to it's title, spilling messy emotions all over the place and wallowing in the carnage.