Steve Earle does everything he does with intelligence, creativity, passion, and integrity. In music, these strengths have earned him comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, the ardent devotion of his fans, and the admiration of the media. And Earle does a lot: he is singer, songwriter, producer, social activist, teacher. . . . He’s not only someone who makes great music; he’s someone to believe in. With the publication of his first collection of short stories, DOGHOUSE ROSES, he gives us yet another reason to believe. Earle’s stories reflect the many facets of the man and the hard-fought struggles, the defeats, and the eventual triumphs he has experienced during a career spanning three decades. In the title story he offers us a gut-wrenchingly honest portrait of a nearly famous singer whose life and soul have been all but devoured by drugs. “Billy the Kid” is a fable about everything that will never happen in Nashville, and “Wheeler County” tells a romantic, sweet-tempered tale about a hitchhiker stranded for years in a small Texas town. A story about the husband of a murder victim witnessing an execution addresses a subject Earle has passionately taken on as a social activist, and a cycle of stories features “the American,” a shady international wanderer, Vietnam vet, and sometime drug smuggler — a character who can be seen as Earle’s alter ego, the person he might have become if he had been drafted. Earle is a songwriter’s songwriter, and here he takes his writing gift into another medium, along with all the grace, poetry, and deep feeling that has made his music honored around the world.