"Bruce Springsteen may have been the "consummate chronicler of welfare-line blues," writes Lauren St. John, "but Steve Earle lived the life."
Alt-country rock pioneer, hardcore troubadour, rebellious without a cause turned rebel with a cause...Steve Earle, in my opinion, is one of the finest songwriters America has ever produced. An artist in the truest sense of the word - a passionate performer and activist who not only stands up for what he believes....he makes damn fine music (even if he's on his seventh marriage).
This is admittedly a bit of a gush post. I was a moderate fan of his early albums - 'Guitartown', 'Exit O', 'The Hard Way' - but then Earle's addictions caught up with him and he was sent to jail. And like most people, I figured he was done and gone. And then he emerged from prison and rehab and latched his claws into me big-time with five straight cd's: 'Train A Coming', 'I Feel Alright', 'El Corazon' , 'The Mountain' and 'Transcendental Blues'. Those last three were recorded over both sides of a cassette I took down with me to LA when looking for a place to live. It never came out of the rental car tape deck for nearly two months.
"I have spent most of my life (like most people) avoiding transcendence at all costs, mainly because the shit hurts. Merely defining transcendence can sometimes be painful. I once heard that "Transcendence is the act of going through something". Ouch. I see plate glass windows and divorces. Someone else told me that it was "rising above whatever one encountered in one's path" but at this point in my life that smacks of avoidance as well as elitism of some sort. I am compelled to look back on years of going through, above, as well as around my life looking for loopholes to redefine everything including any and all of the ideas that I have held close to my heart along the way - Art - Freedom - Justice - Revolution - Love (a big one) - Growth - Passion - Parenting (a really big one) - and I find that for me, for now, transcendence is about being still enough long enough to know when it's time to move on. Fuck me." — Steve Earle (Chicago, January 2000)
Anyway, Earle played Buttkick this weekend - courtesy of the local folk festival.
In front of several thousand people, Earle (sans the Dukes) took the stage armed only with his six string and his harmonica...and immediately launched into three early hits - 'I Ain't Ever Satisfied', 'Someday', and 'My Old Friend The Blues' - with little more than a "thanks" uttered between each unplugged gem....I was so there, but a little confused.
Where was the angry opinionated man from 'Just An American Boy? The politically minded activist who, along with Neil Young, has been one of the most outspoken artists about America and the current administration. The man whose last cd was the provocative and powerful "The Revolution Starts Now'.
Well, he was just easing into it, as it were.
And as he plowed through song after song, eventually the stories began to flow freely, and his edgey opinions started to emerge. There were even some pokes at Canadian Prime Minister Harper - Earle knows his politics. I don't necessarily agree with everything he has to say, but I sure respect Earle for not being afraid to say it...either as between tune banter, or with songs like 'Billy Austin', 'John Walker's Blues', and his closer, 2002's 'Jerusalem'...
"I woke up this mornin'
And none of the news was good
And death machines were rumblin'
'cross the ground where Jesus stood
And the man on my TV told me
that it had always been that way
And there was nothin' anyone could do or say
And I almost listened to him
Yeah, I almost lost my mind
Then I regained my senses again
And looked into my heart to find
That I believe that one fine day
all the children of Abraham
Will lay down their swords forever in Jerusalem"
Even the drunk fan at the back constantly yelling "...play Copperhead Road!" finally shut up during this eeriely prophetic number --- capping off a truly memorable evening of appealing music with a message.
Kind of like an entertaining movie or tv show that is also able to make you think...an important thing to always be striving for, no matter what you're creating.
SONG & ARTIST? - "I was born my papa's son
A wanderin' eye and a smokin' gun
Now some of you would live through me
Lock me up and throw away the key
Or just find a place to hide away
Hope that I'll just go away..."