They said, "God made us in his image"
And it's in God they will trust
When asked about the men that had died by their hands
They said, "Ashes to ashes and dust to dust"
Even before Steve Earle's September 2002 studio release, Jerusalem, hit the shelves it was garnering attention - most all of it negative. As the one-year anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks approached, Earle defied Nashville's ultra-patriotic, Proud to Be an American climate by including the song John Walker's Blues on Jerusalem.

While the usual litany of rightwing pundits and organizations took exception to Earle's attempt to understand John Walker Lindh, few apparently listened to the other songs on Jerusalem. If they had, Earle would have been attacked even more vigorously. Amerika v 6.0 and Ashes to Ashes contain far more critical comments of the United States than can be found in John Walker's Blues.

While Amerika v 6.0 is a blatant leftist indictment of what the United States has become, Ashes to Ashes is more subtle, but reads as an indictment of the entire human race. It interweaves biblical references, scientific theories, and current events - creating verses that can be read several different ways.

Earle takes us through the extinction of the dinosaurs to man's eventual evolution and rise to the top of the foodchain. Yet Earle views this as a triumph for murder, arrogance, and disregard; likening man to a plague infesting the earth.

And that every tower ever built tumbles
No matter how strong - no matter how tall
Someday even great walls crumble
An' every idol ever raised falls
The last few lines hold obvious references to the tower of Babel and the World Trade Center. One is forced to ponder whether Earle's criticisms are pointed at humankind in general or America in particular.

Country music has never been a comfortable home for protest songs or counter-culture views. Steve Earle has once again disregarded the Nashville party-line and Ashes to Ashes is one of the results.

Someday even man's best laid plans
Will lie twisted and covered in rust
We've done all that we can but it slipped through our hands
And it's ashes to ashes and dust to dust