In times like these, I look behind us, and I can’t believe how far we’ve traveled and the web we weave, through times like these Steve Earle woefully croons on “Times Like These.” Compelled by the current events in America, Earle returned to the studio on June 5 to re-record the ballad. On “Times Like These,” a crestfallen Earle poetically unravels the America he sees before him, how far it has come, where it fell behind, and the steps needed to move forward.
Originally written at the start of the Trump presidency, “Times Like These” was recorded during Earle’s Ghosts of West Virginia sessions with the Dukes at Electric Lady Studios. (This recorded version will be released as a 7-inch on Record Store Day, Aug. 29.)
Roused to revise the track, Earle recorded a stripped back version of “Times Like These,” peeling away the instrumentation and revealing its poignant lyrics in reminisces of marching in Washington singing “We Shall Overcome” and the day Mandela was set free. Earle was even inspired to paint the track’s cover art depicting a skeletal, yellow-haired Trump in suit with an uneven, upside down American flag as his backdrop.
“The biggest problem that we’ve got in this country is that everybody thinks everybody else is the enemy,” Earle recently shared in the May issue of American Songwriter.
Earle hasn’t shied away from where he stands politically, which he narratively breaks down on his 2020 release Ghosts of West Virginia (New West Records). Initially inspired by the 2010 mining explosion that killed 29 miners in West Virginia’s Upper Big Branch Mine, the album, which includes seven songs featured in the Broadway play Coal Country, recounts the repeated mine disasters in America.
“Times Like These” is Earle’s continuation in chronicling the plight of those who need their voices heard and a country still filled with repeat offenses.
“This is a song I wrote for a moment at the beginning of the Trumpian nightmare that I planned on releasing closer to the election,” says Earle of the new track. “But I reckon its time has come today.”