The Mountain is Steve Earle's most traditional album, pairing country rock's most notorious miscreant with the best working band in bluegrass. Earle was inspired by a chance meeting with the late bluegrass pioneer Bill Monroe, and this is his self-declared stab at musical immortality. It is easy to imagine these 14 songs sounding as good 40 years from now as they do today. The mood varies widely from triple-time breakdowns to bluesy shuffles to meditative waltzes, but there's not a missed note or strained chorus anywhere. It's also an album you can dance to. Full of jigs, waltzes and two-steps, The Mountain, though it's billed as bluegrass, embodies many styles of country and American music. And, Earle's gravelly, wizened voice adds a new dimension to traditional bluegrass - it takes away some of bluegrass's innocence, thus bringing the genre up to speed with the '90's.
The quality and musicianship of this CD is superb and serves to carry forth the musicians' sense of humor which seems to be the current of the album, no matter what style they're playing. Imagine the traditional acoustic country sound of "The Other Side of Town" from Earle's previous El Corazon, extended to a full album and you'll have a pretty accurate picture of the instantly appealing, rootsy delight that is The Mountain.
"The Mountain ... is an art project in denim and work boots, a self-conscious effort by Earle to pay homage to the bluegrass pantheon if not enter it." New York Times)