"I've been accused of trying to capitalize on what was going on in the world by writing 'John Walker's Blues,' and that is pretty ignorant," says Earle.

Actually, he's right. One of Earle's greatest attributes is his ability to write about current political topics and not come off as self-righteous or condescending. The title track from Jerusalem is an eloquent and emotional survey of the situation in the Middle East, assessing the circumstances in terms of blood and shame instead of political ideologies and enflamed dogma.

"I write about what goes on around me," Earle says. "I have the microphone, so unfortunately you have to hear from me."

Thankfully, what Earle has to say is laudable. And his music, especially since giving up drugs and alcohol, has been consistently first-rate. His non-musical endeavors have been plentiful too: Earle's post-addiction work ethic has included a heralded acting stint on The Wire, publishing of a book of poetry and hosting a weekly radio show on Air America.

"I don't want to write a screenplay," Earle says of the one area of the entertainment industry that doesn't interest him. "But I don't mind acting 'cause the insurance is better."

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