The fuss over “John Walker’s Blues,” Steve Earle’s look-see into the mind of the American Taliban, barely survived the actual release of the song a few weeks ago. John Walker Lindh, who is portrayed by Earle as a naive but well-meaning young idealist, has since tearfully owned up to his mistakes and humbly accepted his prison sentence. What had been a talk-radio controversy is now another pop culture footnote to history.

So much the better, since “John Walker’s Blues” is the weakest song on “Jerusalem,” Earle’s strongest album since he got out of rehab in 1995. The self-doubt implicit in Earle’s desire to figure out what made the young American tick carries over into the music, which is plodding and morose. Lindh comes off as not merely naive, but dead from the neck up.

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