Steve Earle got his start as a young teenager on the vibrant Texas coffeehouse circuit of the 1960s, absorbing the material and emulating the bad habits of his heroes Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clarke. Earle worked on-and-off as a staff songwriter in Nashville before he finally got a decent record deal of his own and released the chart-topping, critically acclaimed Guitar Town in 1986. The record combined twanging, tuneful Country Rock material with tough, unsentimental songwriting that had more in common with Bruce Springsteen than anything Nashville had going on at the time; the fact that it also yielded a couple of Top 10 hits was the icing on the cake. Earle continued to release ambitious Country Rock material, but he failed to repeat the chart success of Guitar Town, and a lifetime of substance abuse finally caught up with him. He wound up in a jail/rehab facility with an uncertain future, a dwindling fan base, and no record deal. He later emerged clean and sober, and proceeded to put out the best, most lucid work of his career -- Train a Comin', I Feel Alright, and El Corazon -- in quick succession. In recent years he's also moved to New York City and played a recurring role on The Wire, which pretty much makes him a Sweet Dude for Life.