Review – Steve Earle’s “Mississippi, It’s Time”

Steve Earle
Photo Credit: Dirk Hansen, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, no changes made

Throughout 2015 there has been no shortage of controversial and polarizing topics in America. One of the hottest issues has been about the confederate flag, what it means and where it should be displayed. Will Hoge tackled the issue with his song “Still A Southern Man,” which I thought was a fair and passionate take. Now we have another take from alt-country artist Steve Earle, who certainly isn’t one to shy away from voicing his thoughts on issues. This isn’t the first new music we’ve heard from Earle in 2015, as earlier this year he released a new album titled Terraplane. While we didn’t get a chance to review it on here, I did listen to it and I thought it was a very solid album of bluesy, country music. And now his newest song is “Mississippi, It’s Time.”

Now before I break the song down, you should probably know where Earle is coming from with this song and who he is targeting this towards. This is what Earle said in a statement regarding the song:

“I grew up in the South and lived there until I was 50,” Earle says in a statement, “and I know that I’m not the only Southerner who never believed for one second that the Confederate battle flag is symbolic of anything but racism in anything like a modern context. [This song] is about giving those southerners a voice.” 

So with this in mind, I take a look at “Mississippi, It’s Time.” The song squarely targets the state of Mississippi and its current display of the stars and bars in front of the state capital. Earle calls for them to take it down and its past time to do so. He points out how both South Carolina and Alabama have already done it and how Mississippi needs to follow their lead. But this is just the surface of the song. Earle goes even deeper, as he sings about slavery, racism, the Civil War and making progression afterwards. The lines that stood out to me the most were the following:

Look away Mississippi

Mississippi, you’re on my mind

All the crosses burned and the lessons unlearned

Left a scar across my heart and its ten miles wide

Sick of sloggin’ through the history of this wounded land of mine

Still payin’ the cost, cause the war was lost

Mississippi don’t you reckon it’s time?

Earle reminds everyone of how the confederate flag is a symbol of hate to so many and it’s what many people view it as. While some view it as southern pride, the history behind it and the evil associated with it override what a few see it as. The instrumentation and production of this song is classic Earle, as it has a folk/alt-country sound that many enjoy hearing from Earle. There’s also short interludes of “Dixie” played in the song. His ragged voice utters out the lines with conviction and a little anger even. Earle is clearly as passionate about this as Hoge and is making it pretty clear how he feels. Whether you agree or not with his stance, Earle certainly knows how to get a message across loud and clear.

It should be noted that Earle has teamed up with the Civil Rights rights organization Southern Poverty Law Center and all proceeds generated from the song will go to the organization. So Earle isn’t making a dime from this song. He simply wanted to get his thoughts out on this issue and help out an organization he cares about. While I thought the song could have went even deeper, I think Earle approached this issue with intelligence and thoughtfulness. His emotions and songwriting combine to make a powerful song with a clear message. It’s a song I definitely recommend checking out. Earle shows once again why he’s such a respected singer-songwriter.

Grade: 9/10